- Category: News-wietpas
- Created on Tuesday, 01 May 2012 12:07
- Written by Amsterdam Herald
Marc Josemans said he would continue to fight the ‘wietpas’ regulations, which came into force in the southern provinces on May 1, even though he risks having his café closed down by the Limburg authorities.
Josemans signalled on Monday that he would refuse foreign visitors entry to his coffeeshop, Easy Going, for the first hour of business before resuming his usual trade. ‘We will continue to sell to anyone who is 18 or older and can prove it.’
On Tuesday morning Josemans turned away 10 foreigners in what was effectively a protest against the rules. They immediately went to the police station to file official complaints of discrimination.
The local council later issued Josemans with a written warning for allowing non-residents into the café. If he breaches the rule again on Wednesday he faces having his establishment closed for a month.
Josemans said he has already planned his next move: ‘In that case I’ll be closed and I can go to court. Realism has to win over political symbolism.’
Under the wietpas regulations, which will be extended across the whole country from next year, access to coffeeshops is restricted to registered members who must live locally. Each establishment has a limit of 2,000 members.
The government claims that the measures will cut down on social nuisance and make the Netherlands less vulnerable to drugs tourism and trafficking.
Coffeeshop owners insist that the rules will have the opposite effect from what is intended, placing the control of drugs sales back into the hands of illegal street dealers.
‘Maastricht is now having to cope with drug runners, which we’ve never seen in the city before, from Liege, Eastern Europe and France. They’re even using the flyers issued by the local council to attract tourists,’ said a spokesman for Maastricht’s Association of Official Coffeeshops (VOCM).
That view was echoed by a former chairman of the Dutch Police Union (Nederlandse Politiebond), Hans van Duijn, who was at the door of Easy Going on Wednesday morning to speak to journalists.
‘Everybody who is being turned away here will walk a few metres around the corner to the drug dealers from Rotterdam and elsewhere, who are driving round here in huge numbers,’ he said.
Many owners say they will openly disregard the rules and refuse to keep official lists of members and carry on doing ‘business as usual’, even if it brings them into conflict with the authorities.
On the other side, the mayor of Maastricht, Onno Hoes, warned at the weekend that the law would be applied strictly from day one. Many of the city’s coffeeshops opted to close their doors on May 1 rather than issue membership cards.
Although the Netherlands has tolerated soft drugs use for decades, it remains officially illegal. Coffeeshops have been forced to operate in a ‘shadow economy’, drawing up creative arrangements with local police and councils to allow them to buy in wholesale quantities of cannabis and sell it on the premises.
It is hardly surprising, then, that the government’s tough new line has led to a fresh display of creative defiance as coffeeshops seek ways to stay in business.