News of: Wednesday, January 05 2011,

84 Percent of Amsterdam coffeeshops to be closed down

According to a survey carried out by the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, 187 of the 223 Amsterdam coffeeshops will have to close if the current cabinet policy toward coffeeshops will be implemented.

The conservative Dutch government, that recently took office, says that coffeeshops that are within 350 meters from a school must close.
The details of this policy have not yet been released; it is uncertain how the 350 meter will be measured, and also whether or not primary schools (children aged 6-12) are taken into account.

The newspaper looked at 14 larger towns in the Netherlands, with at least 10 coffeeshops. They now have 442 of the total of 660 coffeeshops. According to the NRC Handelsblad survey, almost 60% of the coffeeshops will have to close.

Amsterdam is the hardest hit of all cities: of the 223 coffeeshops in Amsterdam, 187 (84%) would have to close.

Some say that more closures could follow. As the remaining coffeeshops will get a lot more customers, they will become a burden to the neighbourhood they are in, and may be closed on that ground.

For Amsterdam there is a lot at stake.

Another measure the government wants to take is the introduction of the 'weed pass'. Coffeeshops are to become members-only clubs, and only residents of the Netherlands can become a member, hence apply for a weed pass, that will become necessary to buy marihuana products in a coffeeshop.
The effect will be that visiting tourists will no longer be able to buy marihuana legally in Amsterdam.

The European Court of Justice has already ruled that such a 'weed pass' does not infringe European Union anti-discrimination rules, as marihuana is basically still an illegal substance (although effectively tolerated in the Netherlands).

The European Court ruling does not mean all legal obstacles for introduction of the weed pass are out of the way.
The European Court ruling is a preliminary ruling, that was issued because of a question about the interpretation of European Union law by the Raad van State, Holland's highest court in matters of administrative law, in an on-going court case of a coffeeshop owner against the city of Maastricht.
The Raad van State still has to pass judgement in this case, and might rule that barring tourists from coffeeshops violates Dutch national law (particularly article 1 of the Dutch constitution, that prohibits discrimination 'on any ground', against 'all who are in the Netherlands').
The Raad van State is expected to pass judgement in the summer of 2011.

Amsterdam fears that, because of the measures, marihuana trade will take to the streets again. It also fears loss of tourism: of the 4 million foreign visitors that visit Amsterdam yearly, 1 million say they visit a coffeeshop at least once.

The mayor of Amsterdam has pleaded for an exception for Amsterdam with the government in The Hague, but the minister of Justice has said that no exceptions will be granted.

Both measures have not yet been implemented, and still have to pass Parliament.
A lot of experts in the field would rather see the legalization of the entire chain of marihuana production, and so do many politicians.
The city councils of Amsterdam and Maastricht are in majority against the weed pass.

Details of the new government policies are to be released in the course of 2011.