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UPDATE: New Restrictions on Some Dutch Cannabis Coffee Shops

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
The Dutch government's tougher line on Holland's famous marijuana coffee shops is taking a toll. In Rotterdam, nearly half of the city's coffee shops will have to shut down because they are too near to secondary schools. Meanwhile, in the border city of Maastricht, where "drug tourists" from neighboring countries with more repressive pot laws flood into town to score, the local coffee shop association announced this week it will begin requiring fingerprint scans of all customers.

Holland currently has more than 700 coffee shops, down substantially from a peak of around 1,500. The coffee shops are much criticized by Holland's neighbors, and the current Dutch government would like to see them go away. Now, if a coffee shop shuts down it cannot be replaced by another. But the coffee shops retain popular support, at least in part because of the huge revenues they generate -- an estimated $1.5 billion per year.

According to the Dutch news agency ANP, the move to restrict coffee shops in Rotterdam arose from concern about rising use of marijuana by school pupils and the problems caused by its sale and use. As a result, the city has decided to ban coffee shops within 200 yards of secondary schools. That means 27 Rotterdam coffee shops will be forced out of business.

In Maastricht, coffee shop owners are self-regulating to avoid violating Holland's famed tolerance policy regarding marijuana. Under the measure announced this week, they will begin fingerprinting customers and scanning their IDs beginning late this summer.

"This is not something that we are doing willingly, but with pain in our hearts," said Marc Josemans, head of the Union of Maastricht's Coffee Shops. "We're very afraid we're going to lose customers over this, and to be honest we're even a little ashamed we're doing it, but the City of Maastricht has such harsh punishments that we don't feel we have any choice," he told the Associated Press.

Coffee shops are licensed to sell up to five grams of marijuana per customer per day. They may not sell to anyone under 18, nor may they permit drugs other than cannabis on the premises. Since Maastricht Mayor Gerd Leers took office in 2002, police have strictly enforced the rules, resulting in the closing of 11 of the city's 26 coffee shops.

According to Josemans, the fingerprinting and ID scan will be tested at his coffee shop in August and will be in place in all Maastricht coffee shops by September. Attempting to assuage privacy concerns, Josemans said the fingerprints would be coupled with a digital photo and a scan of the customer's ID card, with all information except date of birth removed. The fingerprints would not be of a quality to help police, he said.

The information would be stored at each coffee shop. "We're not going to give this information to anybody else, and we're not linked to each other or the Internet," Josemans said.

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Source: StoptheDrugWar.org
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Website: Europe: New Restrictions on Some Dutch Cannabis Coffee Shops | Stop the Drug War (DRCNet)
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