In short, yes. Ever since I reported back in June 2011 about a proposal to ban international tourists from Dutch cannabis coffeeshops, I've received a flurry of comments from disappointed readers who appreciate the unique liberty that these Dutch institutions have to offer. However, there's no need for disappointment just yet - so far, the proposal has yet to become law, and tourists are still welcome at coffeeshops both in Amsterdam and the most of the Netherlands. Any updates to the situation will be posted here as new developments arise.
Even so, many readers may be curious to know more about the the so-called "weed pass" (Dutch wietpas), and the chances that it may one day become a reality. The idea was introduced in December 2010, after a court ruled that the city of Maastricht was allowed to ban non-Dutch residents from its coffeeshops (more details below). An estimated four million tourists each year cross the Dutch border in pursuit of weed and hash, which some border cities claim overloads local infrastructure and creates a public nuisance. The weed pass would turn Dutch coffeeshops into private clubs, with memberships only available to Dutch residents.
The controversy started back in 2006 in the city of Maastricht, whose coffeeshops attract two million tourists annually - some 70-75% of the businesses' customers. The city council voted to restrict coffeeshop access to Dutch citizens only, a move that didn't sit well with local coffeeshop owners. The head of the Maastricht Association of Official Coffeeshops opposed the measure, which he claimed violated European Union laws of free trade; in 2010, however, the European Court of Justice ruled that sales of narcotics do not fall under these laws, and moreover, that the sale of cannabis to non-Dutch residents poses a threat to public order. The issue has since moved on to the Dutch Cabinet, where some parties have pushed for a national weed pass. Three southern Dutch provinces were expected to adopt the pass in January 2012, but this has already been postponed until May 2012; after that, there is a possibility that the entire country will follow suit in 2013.
The public backlash has been tremendous - so many voices have spoken up to condemn the weed pass, that it's hard to believe that its supporters outnumber its detractors. The city of Amsterdam has been especially vocal in its opposition to the weed pass. Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan believes that the ban will lead to increased street sales of cannabis; ironically, the decriminalization of cannabis was meant to combat such sales in the first place. Dutch residents fear that the pass will compromise their privacy, since coffeeshops will act as members-only clubs to which customers will have to surrender their personal information. The Amsterdam Tourism Board has also criticized the plan, which is bound to put a dent in tourism; their statement reflects the widespread opinion that the pass should be implemented on the municipal level, not the national one, so that each city can decide for itself whether or not to ban cannabis tourism.
Will 2013 mark the end of open-door Dutch coffeeshops? Or will individual cities be allowed to decide which model works best for them? Only time will tell, but in the meantime, Amsterdam's famous coffeeshops and other cannabis-related attractions are open to all nationalities:
- Top Coffeeshops in Amsterdam - These three names, with ten locations between them, are celebrated for their product, atmosphere, customer service and extras.
- Cannabis Beyond the Coffeeshops - From the Hash, Marijuana & Hemp Museum to the Hemp Hotel, these destinations are tailored to cannabis connoisseurs.
- The Cannabis Cup - The year's best marijuana, hash, coffeeshops, and related products and services are feted at this annual expo, which attracts thousands of pot smokers from around the world.