The Marijuana Trade In The Euro's Birthplace
- The treaty that created the euro was signed there.
- Marijuana is legal there, and it's sold at "coffee shops" around town.
This is the story of the troubled relationship between those two claims to fame.
The single currency, along with all the other reforms that make it so easy to cross borders in the Euro Zone, led to an influx of foreign tourists coming to Maastricht to get high.
"The name of our city is synonymous with cannabis," Onno Hoes, Maastricht's mayor, says. Hoes is unhappy about this. He says that the people who come to buy marijuana violate traffic laws, litter, and don't spend money anywhere but coffee shops.
So he pushed through a bill that made it illegal to sell marijuana to non-Dutch residents.
You don't have to show a passport to cross into the Netherlands from another country. But you need a passport to walk into a coffee shop in Maastricht.
Not surprisingly, the coffee shop owners, and many of the foreign tourists, are unhappy about the new rules.
Today, "maybe 30 or 40 people come into the shop" every day, says Stephan Korsten, who owns a coffee shop. That's down from 1,500 a day before the new rules were put in place.
"Maybe I have to change it to a real coffee shop where you can drink coffee and eat some donuts or something," Korsten says.
Most of the coffee shops in the city have shut down altogether.
"Our money is allowed to go to the Spanish banks," says the owner of another shop. "But the Spanish pot smokers are not allowed to come to the Dutch coffee shops any more."
Meanwhile, the illegal market for drugs is gaining popularity. Drug dealers like are selling marijuana again—not only to foreigners, but also Dutch residents who don't want to register at the coffeeshops.
Stephan Korsten says it's like in the old days, before the European Union, when his grandparents used to smuggle butter across the border.
Tourist Marijuana Ban In The Netherlands May Be A Pipe Dream
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...
HOLLAND — The City Council on Wednesday took its first step toward approving a medical marijuana ordinance, but some city leaders want to see a provision put that would limit the ability of caregivers to grow and distribute marijuana near school.
The council unanimously approved a first reading of the ordinance, which would make caregivers — those who grow and dispense medical marijuana — a home occupation status. That designation would require such providers to apply for a city permit and give their name and address.
A final vote is scheduled for June 1, but council members could amend the ordinance during a May 25 study session. One possible change could involve prohibiting caregivers from growing or dispensing marijuana within a certain distance of a school.
“I think it’s something that should be given serious consideration,” Councilman Todd Whiteman said. “I have four kids. I think this is something we need state leadership on.”
However, others on the council said the issue of proximity to schools and churches was earlier addressed by the Planning Commission. Mayor Kurt Dykstra, who serves on the planning body, said commissioners dropped the idea of placing a 1,000-foot gap between schools, churches and homes where caregivers could grow and dispense marijuana.
“It took out not just neighborhoods or blocks, but vast sections of the city,” Dykstra said. “It would create almost an exception that swallows the rule.”
Public Safety Director Matt Messer expressed support for some type of “safe zone” around local schools.
“I would not want to see a caregiver open next to a school playground,” Messer said. “I do think we need to give our children some kind of protection.”
The proposal continues to come under criticism from medical marijuana advocates. Kurt Volbeda, a resident of West 20th Street, says the measure discriminates against people who choose to grow marijuana in their own homes.
“The city does not inspect any home occupation residences. So why impose this on (medical marijuana) home occupations? Are medical marijuana growers less trustworthy than other citizens who engage in home occupations?” Volbeda wrote in a letter to the council.
Others expressed concern that the ordinance would still make it possible for marijuana to end up in the wrong hands.
“There’s extensive research that marijuana is addictive, particularly for young people who are much more prone to addictive response,” substance abuse prevention coordinator Lindell Herrick said.