THE HAGUE, Netherlands?The Dutch government moved a step
closer to barring tourists from Holland's signature marijuana bars with a
ruling by the European Court of Justice on Thursday that the ban wouldn't
violate European laws.
The Luxembourg-based court said the southern Dutch city of Maastricht was
within its rights when it briefly banned non-Dutch residents from its soft
drugs dens in 2005.
The policy aimed at curbing problems by so-called drug tourists who flock to
the city from nearby Belgium and Germany. The visitors have a reputation for
rowdiness, creating havoc on the roads and in the city's narrow medieval
While marijuana is technically illegal in the Netherlands, it has been sold
openly for decades in designated cafes, known as "coffee shops." Police make
no arrests for possession of small amounts.
However, the new conservative government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte is
planning to make the coffee shops members-only clubs, aiming to shut out
Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten has said he wants to turn coffee shops back
into small neighborhood haunts where locals can smoke pot in peace, instead
of the large-scale tourist magnets many have become.