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Tourist Marijuana Ban In The Netherlands May Be A Pipe Dream

gothamist.com

A major phase of the Netherlands’ ban on tourists patronizing coffee shops goes into effect in the country’s southern provinces on May 1. Shops in Amsterdam are scheduled stop selling marijuana to foreigners on January 1, 2013. But enacting this ban may be harder than finding a 22-year-old who hasn’t seen EuroTrip: the benign, psychotropic plant that grows naturally in the ground makes the country a lot of money.

According to the director of the Drugtext Foundation in the Netherlands, 50% of the country’s tourists visit the coffee shops, and 10% of tourism is exclusively for marijuana. The Telegraph reports that the coffee shops generate around $2.5 billion annually, which in turn produces $503 million in tax revenue. Alcohol has been banned in the coffee shops since 2007, but sure, why not turn them back over to a substance that is extraordinarily more dangerous (and legal) than marijuana.

“I’m not going to discriminate on the basis of nationality. I’ve only ever discriminated on the basis of behavior,” Michael Veling, the owner of 420 Cafe in Amsterdam told the Times. “I’ll go back to selling alcohol, and go back to selling bags of weed under the counter.” That may not be enough to stay in business: after Maastricht adopted the new policy in October, the town’s coffee shops lost $41 million in revenue—the equivalent of 345 jobs. Not to mention how much the illegal street trade will flourish if the coffee shops disappear.

But it may not even come to that: the Cannabis Retailers Association, comprised of the country’s 680 coffee shops, has filed a lawsuit that’s expected to be reviewed in the coming weeks, and Amsterdam’s mayor even opposes the change. His spokesperson again cited the devil’s brew as being the real issue. “The problems we have with substance abuse are almost always related to alcohol. That concerns Dutch people as much as foreigners.”

Yet the Netherlands’ hard-liners aren’t backing down. Early last month Dutch Parliament moved to ban the sales of hashish, most of which is illegally imported from countries like Afghanistan and Morocco. “We have created an incredible criminal industry that we need to get rid of,” Ard van der Steur, a spokesman for the hilariously named People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy said. If only there were an intelligent way to handle drug policy in place…

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