Protestors just say no to Dutch cannabis ban

Tue May 1, 2012 12:31pm EDT
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By Svebor Kranjc and Thomas Escritt

MAASTRICHT/TILBURG, The Netherlands (Reuters) - Tourists puffed on spliffs in the streets of southern Dutch cities and defiant coffee-shops sold joints to visitors in protest against a ban on selling cannabis to foreigners which took effect on Tuesday.

In Maastricht, a short drive from both the German and the Belgian borders, protesters waved banners decorated with marijuana leaves and slogans such as "Dealers Wanted" and "Stop discrimination for Belgium".

In the main square, a few hundred demonstrators staged a sit-in and about 50 openly smoked joints alongside a two-meter-(6 ft)-long fake spliff.

The new law rolls back the Netherlands' traditionally relaxed attitude to narcotics and clamps down on the millions of foreign "drugs tourists" who flock each year to coffee shops, famed for dispensing soft drugs.

From Tuesday, the cafes in three southern provinces close to the German and Belgian borders can only sell cannabis to registered members. Authorities say the move will reduce crime.

"Now we can't enter any more, outrageous, it's discrimination," a Belgian smoker, who gave his name as Cannabas, told Reuters.

Maastricht's mayor, Onno Hoes, was presented with a petition signed by about 300 coffee shops and other outlets asking for the ban to be scrapped.

The city's Easy Going coffee shop closed its doors to all customers in protest, saying police would simply have to handle dealing on the street instead.   Continued...