Netherlands Moves to Restrict Marijuana Sales

Holland is going to make it harder for tourists to smoke marijuana.

When I saw the headlineThe Netherlands: Government Moves to Restrict Marijuana Sales” via Twitter, I was rather shocked. The story itself, however, is less

The government said it would proceed with plans to force anyone wishing to buy marijuana at cafes to first obtain an official pass — a move intended to stop tourists from buying the drug. Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he planned to introduce the system later this year in the country’s south, an area popular with French and German buyers, before moving on to Amsterdam’s tourist cafes. A Justice Ministry spokesman said Friday that the Supreme Court must still rule on whether foreigners can be blocked entirely.


It’s one thing to allow your citizens quasi-legal use of marijuana. It’s another thing altogether to attract gaggles of tourists who are in your country solely to get high.

My wife and I were in Amsterdam some years back in the offseason and found no indication whatsoever of strung out junkies. There were “coffee shops” that sold marijuana and allowed its consumption on the premises but it was understood that the sufferance did not extend to the out of doors. Presumably, it less pleasant in that regard during tourist season.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Tano says:

    “Strung-out junkie”is hardly an appropriate characterization of a recreational marijuana user.

  2. James Joyner says:

    @Tano: No, certainly not. But the argument here is that it’s a gateway drug. It would seem not so much:

    In the Netherlands 9.5% of young adults (aged 15–34) consume soft drugs once a month, comparable to the level of Finland (8%), Latvia (9,7%) and Norway (9.6%) and less than in the UK (13.8%), Germany (11,9%), Czech Republic (19,3%), Denmark (13,3%), Spain (18.8%), France (16,7%), Slovakia (14,7%) and Italy (20,9%) but higher than in Bulgaria (4,4%), Sweden (4,8%), Poland (5,3%) or Greece (3,2%).[22][23] The monthly prevalence of drugs other than cannabis among young people (15-24) was 4% in 2004, that was above the average (3%) of 15 compared countries in EU. However, seemingly few transcend to becoming problem drug users (0.30%), well below the average (0.52%) of the same compared countries

    They cite respectable EU reports.

  3. As a Bethesda, MD, native who’s lived in downtown DC, NYC and San Francisco, and who has now lived in Amsterdam for over four years, I can report that I’ve never had a problem with heroin users or other hard drug users here. The main crime I worry about is bike theft (which has never happened to me owing to a strong lock I think, but seems to be pretty common).

    As for the foreign pot smoking tourists, you do see them in the tourist areas. They’re good for the occasional laugh, but don’t cause any problems that I’ve seen (except for walking in bicycle lanes, which is a minor annoyance).