Amsterdam struggles to evade ban on dope-smoking tourists

Fri Nov 2, 2012 2:10pm EDT
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By Thomas Escritt

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The mayor of Amsterdam may be unable to deliver on his promise to scrap the ban on tourists visiting the city's marijuana-selling coffee shops, the Dutch justice ministry said on Friday.

Dope smokers were relieved this week when mayor Eberhard van der Laan said the coffee shops would remain open to foreigners.

The conservative national government that lost power in September had pledged that only locals would be allowed to buy "weed" in coffee shops from the beginning of next year.

Amsterdam's marijuana cafes and bars attract millions of tourists and the outgoing government's impending ban on foreigners met strong resistance from businesses.

"We understand that the policy of the central government is to have one policy for the entire country," said a spokeswoman for the city.

"But Amsterdam's situation is very different from the rest of the country's, because we have so many tourists."

The mayor's promise has, however, ruffled feathers in The Hague, the seat of Dutch government, and the spat will determine whether decades of Dutch drug tolerance continue.

The two parties forming the Netherlands' next government want to allow cities to circumvent the national ban implemented by the former government, which included the Christian Democrats.   Continued...