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Dutch towns 'swamped by drug tourists'

TWO Dutch towns are planning to close their cannabis smoking coffee
shops after admitting that an influx of up to 25,000 French and Belgian
"drug tourists" each week had become too much.

Local authorities in southwestern Roosendaal and Bergen-op-Doom
announced they could no longer cope with the "drug tourists" whose
presence they blamed for traffic congestion, crime and unlicenced dealing.

"Soft drug tourism is the motor of criminality linked to (harder) drugs,"
they said in a joint statement. "It has an overwhelming negative effect on
public order."

All eight coffee shops in the two towns will shut, with closures beginning
in February 2009.

"The mayor of Roosendaal thinks we could close them all within two
years," town hall spokeswoman Marjolein Koppens said.

Until then, all local coffee shops will be forced to limit the sale of cannabis
to two grams per customer per day instead of the current five grams.

Liberal drugs laws in the Netherlands allow people to carry five grams of
marijuana on their person without being prosecuted.

Another border town, Terneuzen, announced yesterday it would toughen
its local by-laws on the sale of cannabis from May next year. Opening
hours would be restricted and the amount each customer could buy would
also be reduced.,26058,24544845-5014090,00.html

"Neither of the two mayors are opposed to the sale or use of cannabis in principle. As far as they are concerned, it is the public nuisance that goes hand in hand with coffeeshops that they are trying to tackle. "

New customers
To combat the same situation, Mayor Gerd Leers of Maastricht wants to move all coffeeshops in his city to the border crossings with Germany, Belgium and France. He disagrees with mayors who unilaterally close down coffeeshops without consulting neighbouring municipalities:

"We're simply moving the problem. We're pushing it from Roosendaal to Breda, and then from Breda to Rotterdam. And what's much worse, is that we're pushing the problem into the illegal sphere. The drug runners are celebrating today because they realize they've just won lots of new customers. The demand for cannabis won't go away, it'll just find a new channel of supply."

Coffeeshop summit
Leers has asked Justice Minister Hirsch Ballin to call a meeting with the mayors of all border municipalities. He believes the towns on the Dutch border are the victim of the difference in drug policies between European countries.

"It's key that we now make a clear decision here in the Netherlands. We have to ask ourselves, are we going to hold on to our own Dutch system and maintain a different drug policy from our neighbours, or should we say no, because of the problems this causes we can't do that anymore."

It's a fundamental question, with real consequences for the tolerant Dutch drug policy which has been in place since the 1970s.

"Question 2" will do little to nothing about solving the MJ problem in MA.

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