Sixteen ‘coffeeshops’ – the famous Dutch outlets which are allowed to sell cannabis – have been shut down in Rotterdam.
The city council says they were closed in line with a new government policy banning the sale of soft drugs from outlets within 250 metres of schools.
The rules are designed to try and discourage youngsters from using marijuana. Rotterdam police say they will be keeping a keen eye on drugs dealers to make sure they do not set up business from home in a bid to circumvent the ban.
There are still 45 ‘coffeeshops’ in Rotterdam following the closure of the ones nearest high schools.
The number of ‘coffeeshops’ in the Netherlands is being scaled back. In November last year Amsterdam announced it was closing down 43 premises.
At the same time city mayor Job Cohen insisted the city was standing by its three-decade old policy of tolerating ‘soft drug’ sales.
Cannabis is not legal in the Netherlands, but it can be sold freely in small amounts in the licensed ‘coffeeshops’. Paradoxically, it remains strictly illegal for the coffeeshops to buy in their supplies of cannabis wholesale. Many say this maintains the link between soft drugs and organised crime.
Supporters of the Dutch approach point out that cannabis consumption in the Netherlands is lower than in surrounding European countries, which still operate a purely repressive policy.