Too bad for tourists: Amsterdam coffeeshops, locals only
Sanne van Oosten
The current government of the Netherlands has plans to implement a so-called weedpass, a pass that prohibits non-residents from buying marijuana in Amsterdam’s infamous coffeeshops. Only legal residents will be able to acquire such a pass. This national policy is understandable in the Dutch provinces around the border, since there are many complaints of Belgian or German drug dealers crossing the border to stock up on weed. However, Amsterdam benefits from the policy of drug tolerance as it is a motor of tourism in the capital of the Netherlands. Also, Amsterdam has a reputation of vetoing national policies. Therefore, I had expected Amsterdam to veto this as well. Now it seems like the Amsterdam weedpass is really going to be implemented in 2012.
The Netherlands count over 600 coffeeshop of which about 200 are situated in Amsterdam. Contrary to popular belief outside the Netherlands, the Dutch don’t even smoke marijuana that often. According to a survey conducted by the United Nations for the Annual World Drug report, only 5.4% of inhabitants of the Netherlands aged 15 – 64 said they had smoked marijuana in the last year. Marijuana use in Canada and The United States is almost three times as high as in the Netherlands. In fact, American and Canadian marijuana use is also much higher than in Jamaica, of all places. Within Europe, people from the Czech Republic are the leading pot-smokers. The Dutch come in way below average.
Even though I fit in the category of 94.6% of Dutch people who have not smoked marijuana in the last year, I am proud of the Dutch drug policy. It attests of a pragmatic stance towards drugs, in which harm-reduction is the leading priciple, as opposed to blindly following dogmas and losing sight of the real reasons to prohibit drugs. Remarkably, a minister of the VVD, the largest party in the Dutch parliament is implementing the weedpass, whereas Amsterdam’s local VVD party is strongly against its implementation. National policy and Amsterdam policy are drifting further and further apart.
But if the Dutch aren’t smoking too much marijuana, who are keeping all those 200 coffeeshops in Amsterdam up and running? Good guess, of course these are tourists. Since I had never expected Amsterdam to actually go along with this national policy I always bluffed that I would change my occupation to drug dealer the day this policy is implemented. Now that it really seems like it is going to happen, I’m getting second thoughts.