Dutch try to ban Cannabis foreign consumers led to an explosion of street dealing

On Sunday the 5th of may, coffee shops in Maastricht and other towns such as Roermond and Sittard organized an open doors day for foreigners in order to protest against the ban on tourists’ consumption of cannabis imposed by the authorities. And the foreigners did come back! Hundreds of them came, mainly from the neighbour province of Wallonia.

Indeed, in the southern part of Netherlands, the Wietpas (“Weed pass”) was implemented one year ago in order to supress Cannabis tourism mostly from Belgium and France. From then on, only Dutch consumers that produced this pass could come and buy Cannabis in Coffee shops. The mayors claimed that this reform would allow to stop all the inconveniences and troubles that cannabis tourism caused such as traffic jam, night time noise and, above all, crime and dealing.

But this ban didn’t lead to a fall in drug dealing, quite the contrary.

Since its implementation, an explosion of drug supply offences happened in those cities since it led to a sharp increase of street dealing.

One month after the ban begun, the mayor of Maastricht considered it as a “big success” since “the number of foreign tourists had dropped significantly”. This conclusion ignored two facts that were much more relevant to understand what was happening in his city : Dutch newspapers were all relating stories of street dealers that were becoming rich thanks to the ban and in 30 days, the local drugsmeldpunt - the city hotline for drugs – received 619 complaints instead of an average 160 complaints per month before. The Cannabis price might also have decreased at that time considering the huge quantity of Cannabis that flew through the illegal network and the street dealers proliferation.

One year after its implementation, the assessment of this reform is clear: instead of making the streets safer and reducing the cannabis consumption, it contributed to the huge rise of drug related criminality. In Maastricht, the number of drug related crimes has doubled over the past year while in Roermond it tripled.

This explosion of ‘crime’ had important side effects: most of the Dutch consumers in those southern provinces refused to register and this led to a transfer of the Cannabis market from the coffee shops to the streets. In the end, this is endangering the main raison d’être of the Dutch drug policy and of the coffee shops’ existence that is to separate the soft drugs market from the hard drugs one and to regulate the cannabis sale. Indeed, street dealers usually provide soft drugs such as cannabis but also hard drugs, regardless of the age or nationality of their clients.

This ban reform has been so controversial that its implementation was abandoned at the national scale and several cities such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam already announced that they would keep their coffee shop open to foreigners. Moreover, it conducted interestingly to the rise of another debate: the one about “the backdoor supplying”- about the hypocrite Dutch decision to authorize Cannabis sale but to forbid its growing that leads coffee shop owner to get supplying from illegal market. In April 2013, cities such as Utrecht, Leeuwarden or Amsterdam urged the government to legalise the growing of Cannabis. This may seem to be a more effective way to tackle with drug related criminality.