Dutch Government Delays Banning Tourists From Coffeeshops

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Amsterdam Delays Banning Tourists From Buying Weed

The Dutch government says it is delaying plans to ban tourists from buying marijuana until at least May 2012.

Under the country's famed tolerance policy, marijuana is technically illegal but police don't prosecute people for possession of small amounts and it is sold openly in cafes.

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.

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.

Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten said Thursday a test rollout in southern cities will be delayed until May because of practical difficulties. The cities support the plan, hoping it will solve problems caused by German and Belgians who drive across the border just to buy the drug.

Opstelten said the system will be applied nationwide in 2013, despite objections from Amsterdam.

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.

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