The Dutch government on Friday said it would start banning tourists from buying cannabis from "coffee shops" and impose restrictions on Dutch customers by the end of the year.
The Dutch Cabinet says it will push ahead with plans to force anyone wishing to purchase marijuana at the country's weed cafes to first obtain an official pass – a move designed to curtail tourists from buying the drug.
Pushed through by the far-right party of anti-immigrant politician Geert Wilders, the coalition government that came into power last year. He has also announced plans to curb drug tourism as part of a nationwide program to promote health and fight crime.
The Netherlands is well known for having one of Europe's most liberal soft drug policies that has made its cannabis shops a popular tourist attraction, particularly in Amsterdam.
"In order to tackle the nuisance and criminality associated with coffee shops and drug trafficking, the open-door policy of coffee shops will end," the Dutch health and justice ministers wrote in a letter to the country's parliament on Friday.
Under the new rules, only Dutch residents will be able to sign up as members of cannabis shops. Dutch customers will have to sign up for at least a year's membership and each shop would be expected to have only up to 1,500 members, a justice ministry spokesman said. Justice Ministry spokesman Wim van der Weegen said Friday the supreme court must still rule on whether foreigners can be blocked entirely.
Amsterdam, home to about 220 coffee shops, is already in the process of closing some in its red light district. Some officials have resisted the measures, saying they will push the soft drug trade underground. Prime Minister Mark Rutte says he plans to begin rolling out the system in the country's south later this year, an area popular with French and German buyers, before moving on to Amsterdam's famed tourist cafes later in his term.