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Amsterdam does not want membership system for coffeeshops — The municipality of Amsterdam is against plans by the new Dutch government to introduce a pass card/membership system for coffeeshops — establishments where customers can legally purchase and use marijuana and other soft drugs. [Update: Amsterdam remains against coffeeshop membership system that excludes tourists]

The coalition agreement of the new Dutch cabinet says that coffeeshops should become private clubs accessible only to adult citizens of the Netherlands. Members would be registered for a pass card system, and tourists will be barred.

The new approach is meant to combat crime and other forms of nuisance caused by drugs tourists.

However, Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan in a letter to Ivo Opstelten (Minister of Public Safety and Justice) that — unlike in several border towns — tourists in Amsterdam do not cause much of nuisance. They often stay in the city longer and they do not only come for the weed, he writes.

A 2007 report by Amsterdam’s Department for Research and Statistics shows that of the 4.5 million tourists who spend the night in Amsterdam during a given year, 26% visit a coffeeshop. According to the Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board, 10% of tourists even mention this as a primary reason to visit the city.

Van der Laan fears that a pass card system will lead to an increase in drugs deals taking place on the streets, with a resulting increase in nuisance and crime.

The mayor advocates that councils may individually determine whether or not a coffeeshop membership system is necessary.

Is exclusing tourists contrary to the Constitution?

After the city of Maastricht, in the south-east of Holland, considered a coffeeshop membership experiment designed to exclude tourists the Court of Maastricht ruled the system was contrary to Article 1 of the Constitution of the Netherlands. Subsequently an appeal was filed with the Council of State (Raad van State — a constitutionally established advisory body to the government).

A ruling in that case is expected next year.

Maastricht is currently one of the municipalities that does not want to introduce a coffeeshop membership system.

Research performed by Tilburg University, commissioned by Maastricht, concluded that a ‘weed pass card’ system would be counterproductive as it would lead to an increase in illegal drugs trade.

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This post was last updated: May. 31, 2011