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Dutch crack down on marijuana tourism

And what's more, Dutch youth aren't even interested in smoking weed.

AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands — In the back street cannabis den, a French-speaking Arab youth with a pierced lower lip and a rhinestone encrusted baseball cap leans across the bar to order his fix of choice.

"Hot chocolate, please," he intones in heavily accentuated English.

"With whipped cream?" asks the fresh-faced young barrista in the 420 Cafe.

"Yes, please.”

A group of teenage English boys, their polite manners contrasting with the hair-raising heavy metal designs on their T-shirts, is also drinking the warm, frothy brew. Above them a large flat screen TV is showing a documentary about Antarctic bird life.

A penguin protects her chicks from a hungry gull as two Spanish girls debate whether to get high on "White Widow," “Blueberry” — brands from the marijuana menu — or to take a slice of the peanut butter and white chocolate weed-laced "space cake."

From inside this cozy, 100-year-old-bar-turned-hash-house it appears the Amsterdam drug scene has mellowed since the Dutch government began to "decriminalize" cannabis in the late 1970s.

"Some specimens of my tribe, and I think I can include myself, are considered to be respectable citizens," said Michael Veling, owner of the 420 Cafe.

“We even have a working relationship with the tax office,” added Veling, a spokesman for the Cannabis Retailers Association which represents many of the more than 700 “coffee shops” that openly serve the drug in the Netherlands.

After 30 years of high times, Amsterdam continues to attract waves of youthful tourists eager to smoke a reefer or two without having to look over their shoulder for the cops. However Dutch attitudes are changing. Successive conservative-led governments have tightened restrictions on cannabis sales, while local youngsters seem increasingly indifferent to the coffee shops’ charms.

[Analysis: the awesome power of the illegal high]

A report from European Union’s drug monitoring center made headlines in November when it showed young Dutch people lagged well behind many of their European neighbors when it came to smoking weed.

According to the survey, 11.4 percent of Dutch people aged 15 to 24 had consumed cannabis over the previous year, down from 14.3 percent eight years earlier. The Netherlands was ranked 13th out of 23 nations — way behind countries such as Spain, Italy and the Czech Republic, which register more than double the Dutch rate.

In the 420 Cafe, the only locals in view were a group of 50-something friends of the owner nodding contentedly to the Frank Zappa and Jimi Hendrix tunes coming from the sound system.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/netherlands/100202/marijuana-cannabis-amsterdam-coffee-shop