Friday, November 19, 2010

A Major Buzz-Kill for Dutch Tourism?

On Wednesday, Ivo Opstelten, the Dutch minister for Security and Justice, announced the cessation of tourism to Holland.

Just punking you, reader. But the announcement he made may well have near the same effect. In an effort to crack down on drug abuse, the government is going to be banning the sale of hashish and cannabis to foreigners in the country's famed "coffee houses". These are, without hyperbole, one of the country's top 5 touristic draws, behind the Rijksmuseum and Red Light district, but likely ahead of tulips. No date has yet been set for when this ban will go into effect, according to Reuters.

Dutch News is reporting that the government is talking about enacting a "pass system" to keep track of who goes into and out of coffee shops. In effect, the coffee houses would become private clubs, open only to local members.

The situation is Holland has always been an odd one where the law is concerned. Coffee shop owners are legally allowed to sell small amounts of hash and pot (up to 18 ounces), but to obtain it in the quantities they need to sell the stuff, they, in effect, break the law. In recent years, according to the BBC, Dutch police have been cracking down on marijuana producers, leading to a steep uptick in the price of a toke.

Though I haven't yet read reports of the coffee shop owners planning some legal action to stop the ban, I'd be surprised if that isn't in the works. And I'd be even more surprised if some in the travel industry--hoteliers, restauranteurs who specialize in munchies--don't get involved as well. The fights just heating up, and where there's smoke...well, in the Netherlands, there's likely someone trying to sell it. Stay tuned!

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