Using a spate of prohibition-related organized crime violence as a backdrop, the Dutch justice minister and the mayors of five southern Dutch cities said late last week that they will move quickly to implement a number of restrictions on the area’s cannabis coffee shops, including a “members only” pass system designed to keep foreigners out. But critics said such a move would only increase crime and lessen public order.
After five violent incidents in Eindhoven in recent weeks, the mayors called on Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten to get involved, saying their police forces did not have the manpower to “end the drug war in the south of the country,” according to Die Telegraaf. After a Thursday night “emergency meeting,” the mayors and the minister said they would send in detectives from the national police to fight the violence, and that they would shut down some cafes, use tax and accounting laws to seize criminal assets, and institute a pass system.
The rightist national government wants to institute the pass system nationwide, so its implementation in the south could be viewed as a pilot program for the rest of the country. But it could run into a bump in the road in Brussels. A court case questioning whether barring European Union citizens from Dutch coffee shops constitutes discrimination will be heard next week.
Tilburg University researcher Nicole Maalste told the newspaper Trouw Monday that creating a pass system that bars foreigners from the coffee shops would not reduce violence, but increase it. Tourists who want to buy drugs will simply go to the street dealers to buy them, and many Dutch nationals do not want to be registered marijuana users, she said.
“Which problem do we want to solve with the pass?” she asked. “Eindhoven does not have a problem with drugs tourism.”
The coffee shops aren’t just lying down, either, said cannabis café representative Nol van Shaik in an email to supporters. “The coffee shops of the cities involved in this scheme have spoken out against the pass and its consequences,” he said. “Some of the mayors in the area are in favor of the pass, but half them are against it. There is a lot of criticism from opposition politicians and drug experts,” van Shaik noted.
The criminality that would supposedly be reduced by the Weedpass has nothing to do with the cannabis cafes, van Shaik continued. “It is organized international gangs involved with Ecstasy,” he said.
Van Shaik added that he did not expect the pass system to be implemented unless—and until—the discrimination case before the European Court of Justice is decided several months down the road. “As long as there is no verdict in this particular case, the Weedpass cannot be imposed upon us,” he said.
By Phillip Smith