A Dutch court has upheld a controversial new law making it more difficult for foreign tourists to buy cannabis in ‘coffee shops’ across the Netherlands, reversing more than four decades of liberal drugs policy in the country.
The ban will come into force in three southern provinces in May, and be applied nationwide by the end of the year, according to the BBC.
Dutch residents will still be allowed to enter any one of the 700 coffee shops across the Netherlands where cannabis is available, but must have valid identification or possibly hold a new ‘weed pass’ which is currently being debated.
According to Reuters, the ban is targeted at the many tourists who visit the country every year just to use soft drugs, but is also aimed at tackling a rise in drug-related crime in the Netherlands.
Fourteen coffee shop owners and a number of pressure groups had challenged the law at The Hague district court, arguing that the ban was discriminatory against foreigners.
Maurice Veldman, a lawyer for the coffee shop owners, said Friday’s decision would be appealed.
His clients have threatened to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights should their claim be exhausted in the Netherlands, and will argue that the Dutch should not be allowed to discriminate against people on the basis of where they live:
“This is a bad decision not only for the foreigners who can be discriminated against now, but also for the image of the Netherlands in other countries,” Veldman said, according to the Associated Press.
“We are not a free country any more because our government asks us to discriminate.”