European Court of Justice upholds Dutch coffee shop plans

The European Court of Justice has ruled that Dutch authorities are able to ban foreigners from coffee shops selling cannabis if they so wish, adding that the city of Maastricht was perfectly within its rights when it passed a law in 2005 stopping foreigners entering cafes that sell marijuana.

The law was aimed at curbing so-called drug tourists driving from Belgium and Germany to buy marijuana but now the government wants to extend the restrictions nationwide.

There are around 700 coffee shops in the Netherlands and the cultivation and sale of soft drugs through these outlets is decriminalised but not actually legal.

The owner of a Maastricht coffee shop had challenged the 2005 law, arguing that the policy breached EU laws on free movement of goods and services.

Cannabis use in the Netherlands is tolerated in small amounts, with possession and purchases limited to 5g per adult, regardless of the consumer’s nationality.

However, the Dutch centre-right coalition government plans to turn coffee shops into private members’ clubs amid concerns about the threat drug tourism poses to the Dutch way of life.