Amsterdam Coffee Shop News 2012
New drug laws 2012, coffee shop rumours, tourist ban, and other questions answered by independent experts at Amsterdam.info.
December 12, 2012 News:
No restrictions for visitors in Amsterdam
The mayor of Amsterdam Eberhard van der Laan confirmed in his letter that a certificate of residence issued by city municipality will not be required to enter the coffee shops in Amsterdam.
The mayor underlined that while one third of six to eight million tourists arriving to Amsterdam each year visits the coffee shops, these visitors do not create any disturbance in the life of the city, while limitations on sale of the cannabis to foreigners might create illegal street trade and be a cause for growth of criminality. At the same time, a strict ban on smoking marijuana in schools and schoolyards has been reaffirmed by the Mayor set to take effect on January 1, 2013.
December 7, 2012 News:
Coffee shops club ID card abolished
The new Dutch center-left coalition government is clearly more lenient in its policy on coffee shops than the previous center-right coalition. Coffee shops club ID card (Dutch: wietpas) introduced in 2012 in the border provinces of the Netherlands, has been as of November 19, 2012 abolished. There were serious civil rights objections on collecting data who and where is smoking marijuana. The existing cofee shop club members data was destroyed. Now a standard residence certificate issued by the municipality, which is in common use in many bureaucratic situations together with personal ID are enough to purchase the cannabis in the coffee shops in border areas of the country.
As for Amsterdam, we do not expect any restriction imposed coming months on access for tourists visiting the city to its 214 coffee shops.
February 22, 2012 News:
Plan to introduce the Coffee shops ID in Amsterdam announced again
Much criticized plan of the Dutch government to introduce the Coffee shops identity card in Amsterdam, has been repeated again by the administration officials in February of 2012. The plan is that starting from January 1, 2013, people without a special ID will not be allowed to make purchases of cannabis in the city Coffee shops.
ID in the size of the credit card with the picture of the owner would be issued at request to all adult inhabitants of Amsterdam, while tourists and visitors to Amsterdam would be excluded from applying for this permit. The definite details of this plan should be announced coming months.
What are the new Drug Laws introduced in the Netherlands?
Under the pressure of other European countries, especially France, and to combat the organized crime, Dutch authorities search for the new solutions in their drug policy. It is not about an outright change of the existing law, but about various small steps to limit the freedom Dutch people have. There is also a stress on very strict following of already existing laws. Even a minor law infraction, results in a coffee shop closure. It has been estimated, that from 1500 coffee shops in 2007, there are no more than 650 – 700 left in the whole Netherlands, with about a third of them in Amsterdam.
In some small municipalities in the Netherlands, smoking of pot in the open has been outlawed. This is really new, because in principle you may smoke the pot, as well as tobacco outside. Now, some small cities have forbidden it. You should go inside a coffee shop, or smoke inside your home or a private garden. Thus, not in a public view.
At the beginning of October 2011, Dutch government made a plan to ban the sale of cannabis with the content of THC of more than 15%. This proposal would mean that so called Nederwiet, locally grown pot, much more potent than imported varieties as it usually has 30% of THC or more, would be treated as the hard drug and therefore forbidden. This rule, very difficult to enforce and control, remains one of several new ideas to limit the freedom Dutch people have at the moment.
Is it true, that the foreigners will not be allowed to buy pot?
Some municipalities close to the borders with Germany and Belgium, with an aim to stop so called drug tourism, plan to introduce a special ID issued only to the locals, enabling them to enter the coffee shops, or else they intend to organize coffee shop customers in closed clubs, requiring membership, where visitors would not be admitted.
From October 1, 2011 in the city of Maastricht (population of 120 thousand) in South of the Netherlands, only the Dutch and the visitors from Belgium and Germany are allowed to buy marijuana in the coffee shops. An ID which has been always required at all coffee shops, to establish buyer’s age (18 and older), serves additionally as a proof, that a visitor is not coming from further in Europe or the world.
Are these changes going to be introduced in Amsterdam?
We do not expect these changes to be introduced in Amsterdam in the near future. There is an attempt by the authorities to quiet down the whole scene, but the basics did not change, and the access to soft drugs remains open to all adults. We believe that changes in the border cities are more an exploration of new ideas than a beginning of the change in the whole of the Netherlands.
Are there plans to introduce a special ID for the locals to enter the coffee shops in Amsterdam?
Introducing the special ID for the locals in a big city like Amsterdam, would create a lot of complications, and some people fear that it would introduce many younger people to the use of drugs, creating unnecessary interest in something, what was until now easily accessible, and therefore not very popular. The estimates are, that less young people in the Netherlands tried soft drugs, than their young counterparts in other West European countries, where marijuana is strictly forbidden.
Does it mean, that there are no planned changes in Amsterdam?
Much stricter rules will be applied about the distance of the coffee shops from schools in Amsterdam. In principle coffee shops now are not allowed in the proximity of 250 meters from any school (before 500m.). There is also a plan to clean the 'close vicinity of schools' and this might eventually force the municipality to close most of the coffee shops, because in Amsterdam everything is close to anything. 250 meters is already very sharp rule in this densely populated city. The result would be, that more coffee shops will eventually close, but most of them will just move to Amsterdam suburbs.
How does the population of Amsterdam react to these planned changes?
People of Amsterdam do not want their city to be a capital of junkies and drug addicts from all over the world. But at the same time, they are for tolerance and accessibility of the soft drugs. They would prefer to have the scene more quiet, but not necessarily smaller. Any kind of sharp restrictions will have an opposite effect to that intended - criminal world would control the sphere which eventually would become illegal, and would reap profits from the limitations.
If I arrive to Amsterdam coming months, shall I be able to legally buy marijuana?
There are no immediate plans of direct changes in the drug policy in Amsterdam, noticeable to a tourist. Some coffee shops will close, but many will remain. If the new change of the law will be announced, we shall advise our readers about it. As for now, every person above 18 may enter the coffee shop. Your ID may be required to check your age.
Disclaimer: we would like to point to many other attractive ways of having a truly fine time in Amsterdam. If you are bored with the Dutch museums, which are really unique and a must to see, take a ride in a canal boat, have a glass of a fine Heineken or Grolsch beer, enjoy a tasty meal in one of Amsterdam restaurants or go shopping on one of Amsterdam colourful markets. Do not try to disconnect yourself from our wonderful city! Enjoy your visit!
By Peter Skelton for www.amsterdam.info