Tourist Drug Ban in the Netherlands

As of May 1, it is illegal for foreigners to buy soft drugs in three border provinces of the Netherlands. This new constraint is especially restrictive in Maastricht, which lies only 20 miles from the larger German city of Aachen and only 60 miles from Brussels, Belgium. Before May 1, foreign “drug tourists” flocked to the 14 “coffee houses” in the city, paying €3 or so for a joint and lighting up (since this activity is illegal in neighboring countries). In protest against the law, all 14 houses have closed.

While the law reduces industry demand, I doubt that it will mean the industry’s complete demise. I expect competition will lead some of the houses to reopen, while others will be closed permanently. The industry will be smaller — fewer firms serving fewer customers. Since I see no reason for average cost to change, surviving firms will look very much as they do now: small shops, each with the same size crowd as before. This does impose a cost on Dutch tokers: With fewer shops, they will have to travel further to toke up.


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  1. Edmund Charles Davis-Quinn says:

    Why would this really be an issue, the much bigger scandal is that marijuana is still illegal around the world when so, so many legal drugs are much, much more dangerous.

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    • Mike B says:

      Why would a town do such a thing??? In fact wouldn’t they be more disposed to do the exact opposite…ban drugs for local residents, but allow it for foreigners? Pennsylvania has taken that approach with fireworks, licensing scores of stores that are only permitted to sell to out of state residents. Seriously, in this age of shrinking European budgets, why are communities voting to deprive themselves of crucial tax revenue? It’s almost as if Europe wants to to bankrupt.

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      • Richard says:

        – the towns didn’t decide, it was the central government that decided upon this new regulations.

        – drugs tourism is causing more trouble than the economic benefits. There are lots of drug runners on the streets, misbehaving in traffic, dealing hard drugs, fighting with each other, and harassing local residents.

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      • Dave says:

        drugs tourism is causing more trouble than the economic benefits.

        Interesting that the article in the original post notes that:

        The ban edged close on Friday, after group of café owners lost a case at The Hague district court that the ban is discriminatory unless it can be proved that foreigners are causing more of a public order problem than locals.

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  2. Marco says:

    Potentially more devastating for the industry is the fact that Dutch users will need to register and get a “weed pass” to be able to consume legally. Not surprisingly, many of them are reluctant to do so.

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  3. Nanno says:

    As a Dutch citizen my real problem with this new law is that street dealers will return and will blur (by usually being able to provide both) the now clear line we have between soft (marijuana) and hard drugs (cocaine, XTC). Also there are quite a few rules and regulations the shops must abide and therefore customers know they are getting a good and safe product.

    There are also some privacy and discrimination issues at play.

    Legalize and regulate (even tax it)!

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  4. Kris says:

    This only benefits the criminals. You don’t remove the demand for drugs, just the avenue for safe and regulated consumption. Pure populist stupidity. I don’t even smoke myself (I live in NL though) but I think anyone in this, or any country really, should have safe and regulated ways for enjoying whatever they like (within certain constraints) and let’s face it, marijuana is hardly that dangerous.

    Stupid politics.

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  5. Matunos says:

    Just in time for a recession in the Netherlands (plus a collapse of the government). Well played, Dutch.

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  6. Nate says:

    You’re not taking all factors into consideration.

    First, why would the price remain the same? They will have to increase prices due to selling less (90% of turnover of some shops is from tourists), and the gangs that supply the shops will jack up their prices to supply as a result of lost volume too! So prices could triple!

    Second, what about the shop owners that disregard the law and allow everyone to continue partaking?

    Thirdly and most importantly, the law doesn’t go nationwide until next year, AFTER an election is held and could result in the law being rescinded altogether due to popular pressure.

    Toke it easy,

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  7. RGJ says:

    “””In protest against the law, all 14 houses have closed. “”””

    er….is that the official economist view? Could they have had future revenue concerns?

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  8. Richard says:

    No, they really closed in protest of the law. An important fact that has been left out here though, is that they only closed for three hours. They all reopened the same day (as planned).

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    • Mr.T says:

      Reading this i basically had the same reaction as Mike but after reading Richards post on how it causes more trouble then gain i hav to agree with this decision.

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