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Netherlands court upholds ban on tourists in pot cafes

A Dutch court has upheld a controversial new law making it more difficult for foreign tourists to buy cannabis in "coffee shops" across the Netherlands.

Netherlands maastricht cannabis cafeEnlarge
A pedestrian passes a legal cannabis head shop in 2006 in the Dutch city of Maastricht. The city has long been fed up with foreigners flocking to the town to get stoned, and cannabis cafes recently agreed to a voluntary ban on most foreign tourists. (Robin Utrecht/AFP/Getty Images)

A Dutch court has upheld a controversial new law making it more difficult for foreign tourists to buy cannabis in so-called coffee shops across the Netherlands, reversing more than four decades of liberal drugs policy in the country.

The ban will come into force in three southern provinces in May, and be applied nationwide by the end of the year, according to the BBC.

Dutch residents will still be allowed to enter any one of the 700 coffee shops across the Netherlands where cannabis is available, but they must have valid identification or possibly hold a new so-called weed pass, which is currently being debated.

According to Reuters, the ban is targeted at the many tourists who visit the country every year just to use soft drugs and aimed at tackling a rise in drug-related crime in the Netherlands.

More from GlobalPost: Netherlands to close cannabis cafes to tourists, impose restrictions on Dutch

Fourteen coffee shop owners and a number of pressure groups had challenged the law at The Hague district court, arguing that the ban was discriminatory against foreigners.

Maurice Veldman, a lawyer for the coffee shop owners, said Friday’s decision would be appealed.

His clients have threatened to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights should their claim be exhausted in the Netherlands, and will argue that the Dutch should not be allowed to discriminate against people on the basis of where they live:

“This is a bad decision not only for the foreigners who can be discriminated against now, but also for the image of the Netherlands in other countries,” Veldman said, according to the Associated Press.

“We are not a free country any more because our government asks us to discriminate.” 

More from GlobalPost: Dutch ban foreigners from cannabis cafes in Maastricht area

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/120427/netherlands-court-upholds-cannabis-ban-cafes