The Dutch Cabinet: coffeeshop to be a private club for the local market

Coffeeshops will become private clubs for the local market. Upon recommendation by Minister Schippers of Health, Welfare and Sport and Minister Opstelten of Security and Justice, the Council of Ministers has agreed to measures to reduce nuisance and drugs tourism. For example, access to coffeeshops will be linked to a membership pass and the Cabinet will set a maximum number of members per coffeeshop. Members have to be adults and Dutch citizens.

The Cabinet endorses the conclusions of the Van de Donk Commission which wrote in 2009 that substance use of minors has to be countered more strongly and that coffeeshops have grown into large points of sale for cannabis that are hard to manage. The current coalition agreement provides that the current open door policy of coffeeshops should be terminated and that the fight against organised (drugs-related) crime is intensified. In order to achieve this, the Cabinet is taking the following measures:

  • Coffeeshops will become private clubs for the local markets only accessible to Dutch citizens upon display of valid proof of identity and based on membership of the relevant coffeeshop.
  • Membership is granted in the form of a membership pass by the coffeeshop owner upon display of valid proof of identity and proof that the applicant is a Dutch citizen. Membership must have a term of at least one year.
  • The Cabinet will achieve the envisaged small-scale nature by setting a maximum number of coffeeshop members. The maximum number of members per coffeeshop will be set at a later time. The mayor may determine a lower maximum number of members per coffeeshops depending on local circumstances.
  • Persons who do not hold Dutch citizenship will not have access to the coffeeshops. The Cabinet notes in connection with this decision that the outcome of the proceedings before the Council of State between the municipality of Maastricht and a coffeeshop concerning the citizenship condition.
  • In order to reduce the visibility of coffeeshops to students, the Cabinet will increase the distance between schools and coffeeshops to 350 metres. The real distance to be crossed on foot along the public road will count in this connection.

These measures will be introduced in addition to the so-called AHOJG conditions. These provide that coffeeshops are prohibited from placing posters, selling hard drugs, causing nuisance, admitting persons below the age of 18 or selling to them and from selling or stocking large quantities. The relevant parties are afforded a transitional period to be determined in greater detail and the measures will be introduced in phases if necessary.

The Cabinet expects that closure of coffeeshops to foreign drugs tourists will ensure that they no longer travel to the Netherlands to purchase and consumer cannabis. After all, many of them can use the illegal markets available in their immediate surroundings. Nevertheless, any side effects of the measures will be monitored sharply and dealt with effectively by the police, the judicial authorities and administrative bodies.

The Public Prosecution Service will also increase the demands against professional growing of and trade in cannabis and the production of and trade in large quantities of soft drugs. For this purpose, the Public Prosecution Service will amend the instruction and guidelines Opium Act before 1 July 2011. The Cabinet will significantly intensify the fight against organised (drugs-related) crime. The number of criminal organisations that will be dealt with will be doubled from 20 to 40 percent. The approach will not remain limited to bringing criminals before the court, but it will also break the underlying structures that facilitate these forms of organised crime. This Cabinet will also make significant additional investments in seizing criminal assets.

Drug use has remained more or less stable in the past decade. Care demand is increasing due to problematic cannabis use. Specific groups for attention are persons going out and problem youngsters. The Cabinet focuses mainly on youth when dealing with drugs-related problems. Pursuant to signals of an increase in care needs in connection with GHB addiction, a treatment protocol is currently being developed. A new GHB risk assessment is also being developed. Self-tests and treatment via the Internet can be deployed successfully in various stages of substance use and addiction. The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport is developing Keurkring, an instrument to assess the quality of online intervention.

Problems surrounding the use of and trade in qat are increasing among certain groups of immigrants, particularly in the Somali community. This is reason to assess whether qat should be placed on the list of banned substances. This will be investigated in the coming six months, including the extent of the problem. This autumn the Cabinet will decide the measures that are required.