Jul 10, 2016 9:15 AM

Are Foreigners Allowed to Buy Weed in the Netherlands?

Amsterdam has been a kind of Mecca for all weed connoisseurs for years now. However, the question whether tourists can be allowed in the country's coffeeshops is a constant issue discussed by the Dutch government.

In 2012, the government introduced "a weed pass" to ban tourists from buying weed in the Netherlands. However, today, most cities do not follow the ban and sell cannabis not only to the locals. The only places that remain strict in this regard are Maastricht and a bunch of other small towns.

Some Dutch politicians tend to name all foreign visitors “drug tourists” and instead of embracing their money spent in coffeeshops as a means of Holland's economic boost, many politicians vote for the weed pass.

Drug tourists became one of the most important political problems of the country twenty years ago, when the amount of purchased weed per person was lowered to only five grams. As a result of this reform, the tourists from Germany and Belgium started to stop by several coffeeshops to stock enough marijuana. That is why such border towns as Maastricht became full of erratic traffic and frustrated locals.

Another problem that the coffeeshops face is the nationwide tendency to close the establishments whenever possible. Over the last twenty years, the number of coffeeshops has greatly reduced. Now, all of them are packed and have more traffic than ever.

Running a coffeeshop may seem like a good business, but the Maastricht shop owners actually worked with the authorities to lower the number of visitors. Among the first proposals was a pass that would allow selling weed only to those people who live within a 150-kilometer radius of the town. The pass that was finally adopted by the government was different from the first idea and allowed both Germans and Belgians to buy weed if they lived close enough.

In 2010, the issue was even perceived as a nationwide threat. Politicians proposed to ban all tourists from buying cannabis in any coffeeshop of the country. This system was accepted, and the Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten was the key figure of the change. In 2012, the program was introduced in three provinces and later—in the whole country.

Luckily for the tourists, not all politicians were eager to ban people's favorite Dutch attraction—Amsterdam Major Job Cohen refused to submit to this new system. Major even explained his point of view on national television. He said that while local coffeeshops remained open for tourists, the enormous crowds of foreigners would not fill the city's streets causing the accumulation of illegal dealers. And so, the weed pass system never made it to the capital and other major cities of the Netherlands. True to Cohen's words, once a rather large city of Eindhoven stepped away from the ban last summer, the street dealers all but disappeared.

In seems that, in time, the last strongholds of the pass will subside and forget about the ban as well. Some of these towns already allow the participants of music festivals to buy weed at coffeeshops with a festival ticket at hand.

Among the towns that still enforce a weed pass are Maastricht, Sittard, Tilburg, Breda, Terneuzen, Goes, Dordrecht, Veenendaal, Oss, and several others.

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