For a certain generation, the first time we heard about the Amsterdam coffee shops was in the 1994 film Pulp Fiction, where Jules reveals some of the differences between the Netherlands and the U.S. But, Dutch cafes have been operating for much longer than that, proving to be both important money generating tourist destinations as well as cultural pillars. But, this way of life has been threatened with legislation that would require all coffee shops to run as “members only” clubs, essentially barring tourists from visiting the weed-friendly spots and ending a major draw for global travelers.
As should be expected, the coffee shops are not too pleased about the proposed changed in the law and went to court on Wednesday in a last ditch effort to try and plead their case. According to Fox News, the new laws would limit memberships to the clubs to only Dutch residents and “members would only be able to get into the coffee shops by registering for a ‘weed pass.’ The shops would only be allowed a maximum of 2,000 members.” The law is scheduled to take effect on May 1st in the south of the country and on January 1st nationwide.
In Amsterdam, the nation’s primary tourist destination, it remains unclear whether the law would even be enforced, as the city largely opposes the measure as a whole. But, lawyers for the coffee shops still argue the point that the new laws would be discriminatory, pointing out that the Dutch drug laws allow its citizens the freedom to partake in their high of choice, and that visitors should be allowed the same freedom.
In defense of the legislation, lawyers are quick to point out that the laws are being put in place to fight “drug tourism,” which involves foreigners coming across the border to purchase the product and then returning to their home country to sell it off. Apparently, they are most susceptible to this near their borders with Germany and Belgium.
A ruling is expected on this issue on April 27th, with one Amsterdam shop owner saying that if the ruling goes against the cafes, the coffee shops will likely disregard the new laws. And, it is likely that even if the legislation does go into effect, the downside to the new policy on weed will become obvious very quickly. It will be hard to ignore the drop in tourism and the rise in petty crimes as many people begin buying their cannabis from the streets. This is what the coffee shops were originally designed to prevent and by capping their memberships and excluding foreigners, the Dutch government is likely going to take a giant step backward where they had previously been quite progressive.
Would you visit Amsterdam without being able to go to coffee shops? Is this the end of Amsterdam as we know it?