Netherlands to crack down on cannabis tourism

AMSTERDAM — The Dutch government is working on an action plan to combat ‘cannabis tourism’ from abroad and cannabis plantations in the Netherlands.

In a letter to the Parliament in The Hague, three ministers signalled the government’s intention to tighten the country’s often-criticised cannabis policies.

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Interior Minister Johan Remkes told MPs that his officials would talk to local town councils about tightening the application of the law. Municipalities will also be encouraged to keep cannabis cafes, known as coffeeshops, away from schools.

He said local authorities would be encouraged to use the law more intensively to close down coffeeshops “if there was reason to do so”.

Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner has instructed his department to concentrate on tackling drug tourism from abroad and eliminating large-scale cannabis cultivation in the Netherlands.

This would involve closer cooperation between Dutch police and law enforcement agencies in other countries, he said.

Donner said he would look into the possibility of limiting the rights of non-residents of a municipality to buy cannabis in a local coffeeshop.

Drug tourists, mainly from Germany, France and Belgium, travel to Dutch border towns every year to purchase drugs and transport them back illegally to their home countries.

Maastricht, in the south of the Netherlands, is running a pilot project aimed at limiting cannabis tourism. If successful, the approach used there could be used nationwide.

The minister also indicated that “grow shops” which sell seeds and other paraphernalia to grow cannabis would face tougher scrutiny and criminal gangs involved in the industry would be hunted down.

Health Minister Hans Hoogervorst has ordered research into the possible risks of the high levels of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis.

Dutch-grown cannabis is said to have particularly high levels of THC.

The results of this research and the findings of a second study into the possible link between cannabis use and psychiatric illness will be incorporated into future government policy on cannabis, Hoogervorst said.

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