Amsterdam/ The Hague - The soft drugs policy of the government will be disastrous in Amsterdam, mayor Eberhard van der Laan fears. If all the coffee shops within a radius of 350 meters around a school are to be shut down, only 36 of the 223 remain left. As a result, there will be more nuisance around coffee shops that are allowed to stay and a thriving street trade.
The pass system that makes coffee shops only accessible to adult residents of the Netherlands will work out badly too, Van der Laan expects. 'If tourists are denied access to the coffee shop, lucrative selling of soft drugs on the street will come back. We will return to the Zeedijk affairs of the eighties. That street is finally restored, but now the dealers will come back. Don’t put the street through that. '
Van der Laan expresses the position of the police, justice and the city council. They have had a meeting about it this week. He also responds to Minister Opstelten of Security and Justice, who announced to make no exception for Amsterdam.
The coffee shop is an ‘Amsterdam invention’ in the fight against the troublesomeness of dealers. Amsterdam has 223 coffee shops, of which 138 in the center; once upon a time there were 324. Last year, there were 666 coffee shops spread over 101 municipalities in the Netherlands. 'In Amsterdam, we have made soft drug use manageable with the coffee shops.'
Van der Laan: “We can see what happens in coffee shops. We thoroughly check. The police walks into coffee shops on a daily basis. In five years time, fifteen minors were found. We put much effort into coffee shops that bring nuisance. The grace permit is a big stick. We can take away the license.”
Young people should stay away from soft drugs. This objective is fully endorsed by Van der Laan. 'We do a lot for this, and we can do more. We have teaching modules, young people give information to other young people, we are involving the parents. Teachers are trained to identify behavior that stems from problematic soft drug use. That is more effective than closing coffee shops.'
The government parties have agreed that a coffee shop is not allowed within 350 meters of a school. If that applies to secondary schools, 116 coffee shops in Amsterdam have to close. If the primary schools are included as well, about 36 coffee shops remain. 'Then the tolerance policy is over and done with.'
The pass system that the government wants to implement, will work in the border region but not in Amsterdam, Van der Laan expects. 'The Amsterdam coffee shops partly serve tourists, but they do not cause the problems that plague the border region. Tourists do not only come to Amsterdam for a coffee shop to immediately leave again.'
Amsterdam attracts four million tourists yearly, of whom an estimated quarter visits a coffee shop. Van der Laan: 'The vast majority of tourists does not come for the coffee shops. But they will soon be harassed by aggressive street vendors.'
Although the trade in cannabis products (hashish and marijuana) is prohibited under the Opium Act, the sale is tolerated under certain conditions since 1976. A coffee shop is left alone when there is no advertising, no selling of hard drugs, no nuisance and when there are no children under 18 permitted. A coffee shop is allowed to sell up to a maximum of five grams per day per person. The coffee shop is allowed to have up to a maximum of half a kilo in stock.
Besides in the four major cities in the Randstad, especially in Amsterdam, there are concentrations of coffee shops in the major cities of Brabant, Limburg, Twente, Southeast Drenthe, the south of Groningen, the Gooi and Zeeland, mostly border regions. Due to the nuisance, in the border regions often caused by visitors from abroad, municipalities try to reduce the number. In 2009, Bergen op Zoom and Roosendaal abolished the policy of tolerance for coffee shops. All the coffee shops there are closed.