The Dutch government today announced that by the end of the year, the country's famed marijuana-dispensing coffee shops would start to close to tourists and be open only to Dutch citizens. By next year, no tourists would be able to legally buy marijuana. Under the new regulations passed today, each coffee shop would operate like a private club with some 1,000 to 1,500 members. In order to qualify for a membership card, applicants must be adult Dutch citizens.
Of course, the new law's threat to tourism in the country hasn't sat well with everyone. The English-language Dutch Daily News quoted the head of Dutch tour operator TUI, who said, "The coffee shops belong to our culture.... That will really hit the city bad. Also many young foreigners after their first visit will not return at an older age when they have more money." It's an awkward translation, but you get the drift.
"In order to tackle the nuisance and criminality associated with coffee shops and drug trafficking, the open-door policy of coffee shops will end," read a letter to the parliament from the health and justice ministers, obtained by Reuters. A BNO News story had more from a government statement:
"The cabinet expects that the closure of coffee shops to foreign drug tourists will result in that they no longer travel to the Netherlands for the sale and consumption of cannabis," the cabinet said in the statement. "After all, for many of them applies that they can use the existing illegal market in their own country. Nevertheless will the possible side effects of these measures be monitored closely and adequately addressed by the police, judiciary, and administration."
Start planning your Harold/Kumar/Cheech/Chong pilgrimages now, people.