Jay, a 29-year-old from London, lights a cannabis joint in a coffee shop on Nov. 1, 2012, in the center of Amsterdam, Netherlands. The ban on foreigners entering coffee shops came into effect last May in the Netherlands' southern provinces, but after intense lobbying by city authorities in Amsterdam it's now up to each city to decide how to apply the cannabis laws. (Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
MAASTRICHT, Netherlands — Club 69 has seen better days.
On a wet winter afternoon, the place was empty. The palm-tree murals went un-admired, the elaborate smoke-extraction system was turned off and the tupperware containers of cannabis sat unsmoked on the shelves.
Owner Henk Peelen says his "coffee shop" — the Dutch term for a cannabis cafe — has fallen victim to laws that came into force last year to stop foreigners from taking advantage of the Netherlands' tolerant approach to soft drugs.
"Because of the ban on customers who came from abroad, I had to sack all my staff, 11 people," he said.
About half of Maastricht's 14 coffee shops have shut down since May, when the new rules took effect. Others have seen a radical decline in customers and Peelen says almost 400 people have lost their job across this southern city.
"It's costing the city a lot of money," he complains.
Amsterdam is a two-hour drive north of Maastricht. In the heart of the capital's red-light district, the scene in its best-known coffee shop could hardly be a bigger contrast. The cheerful, international crowd spilling out of the canal-side Bulldog is an illustration of the complexity of Dutch drug laws.
The ban on foreigners entering coffee shops came into force last May in the Netherlands' southern provinces and was due to take effect across the whole country on Jan. 1, limiting access to marijuana outlets to Dutch residents who register to obtain a "weed pass."
However, after intense lobbying by city authorities in Amsterdam, which feared a loss of tourist revenue, a new Dutch government elected in September agreed to change tack. The law still stands, but it's now up to each city to decide how to apply it.
"We would like to inform you that coffee shops are OPEN in Amsterdam," the Bulldog proclaims on its website.
That may be good news for tourists hoping to chill out with a toke after a trek around the flower market or Van Gogh Museum, but not for the weed lovers of Maastricht.
"It's death penalty for cannabis culture," says Roger Willemsen, whose Organic Earth store sells cannabis seeds and other products for customers seeking to grow their own. "It's the world turned around. Instead of going forward they are going backward."
The city hall in this pretty riverside university city of 122,000 — close to the Netherlands' borders with Belgium and Germany — sees things differently.
Mayor Onno Hoes had lobbied for the new restrictions, complaining Maastricht was being overrun by rowdy foreign youngsters flooding into town to get stoned.
"In Amsterdam there are tourists going to visit the museums and the canals who go to the Bulldog or some other coffee shop to smoke some weed. Here you had people coming in just to visit four or five coffee shops and buy up the maximum amount of weed," explains Gertjan Bos, the mayor's spokesman. "They were noisy, unruly, a nuisance."
Bos says the weed pass has successfully halted the flow of an estimated 1.6 million foreign visitors a year who came to the city for pot.
Although the coffee shop association calculates the decline in dope-smoking visitors has wiped out income of about $185 million, Bos denies there's been any significant impact on the city's wider economy.
However, he acknowledges that the weed pass idea has not been entirely successful. Provisions designed to turn the cannabis outlets into private clubs where all clients must register as members have scared away Dutch customers, forcing the closure of coffee shops.
Recognizing the problem, the city hall announced in September it was dropping the registration requirement so customers need only show their Dutch passport or local residence papers to gain access to coffee shops.
Peelen, however, is not convinced.
He says Club 69 — located across the street from Maastricht University's arts and social science faculty and next door to an "erotic discount center" — has enough customers to keep afloat, but doubts others will reopen unless an ongoing legal challenge forces a change in city policy.
Meanwhile, he claims the new restrictions on coffee shops have led to an "explosion" of illegal street dealing.
"There is more criminality on the street, more aggression. People feel unsafe. What sort of first impression does that give to people coming from abroad?" Peelen asks.
Bos counters that tough police action has cracked down on street trading while the new measures to encourage Dutch pot smokers to return to the coffee shops will further undercut the illegal dealers.
A short walk from Club 69, Willemsen's emporium for pot cultivators is packed with lamps, fertilizers and sacks of soil. There's also a baffling array of seed varieties ranging from the modest African Widow, going for just $13 for a packet of 10, to the likes of G13 Haze New York Diesel retailing at $185.
Willemsen says the sale of cannabis seeds is completely legal and the grow-your-own business is booming since the weed pass was introduced.
"Of course it depends on what they do with them. We sell to customers who maybe want to feed them to their canaries or grow the plants for a windbreak in the garden," he says with a smile.
"There's a Dutch mentality, a lot of people thought it was tolerance, but it's not tolerance, it's creativity. People in Holland know the rules, but there's always a way to get around them."
Culled from more than 100,000 submissions, these photos represent the best in photojournalism from the past year.
Wpp 01 paul hansen
Nov. 20, 2012, Gaza City, Palestinian Territories: 2-year-old Suhaib Hijazi and his older brother Muhammad were killed when their house was destroyed by an Israeli missile strike. Their father, Fouad, was also killed and their mother was put in intensive care. Fouad’s brothers carry his children to the mosque for the burial ceremony as his body is carried behind on a stretcher.
- [Paul Hansen, Sweden, Dagens Nyheter/Courtesy]
Wpp 02 emin ozmen
July 31, 2012, Aleppo, Syria: Opposition fighters regularly launched operations to seize government informants after dark. Two informants were captured, declared guilty under interrogation, and tortured throughout the night; tired soldiers had to be replaced so the torture could continue. After 48 hours, the captives were released.
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Wpp 03 fabio bucciarelli
Oct. 10, 2012, Aleppo, Syria: A Free Syrian Army fighter takes position during the clashes against Syrian government forces in Sulemain Halabi district in Aleppo.
- [Fabio Bucciarelli, Italy/ AFP/Courtesy]
Wpp 04 rodrigo abd
March 10, 2012, Idib, Syria: Aida cries while recovering from severe injuries she received when her house was shelled by the Syrian Army. Her husband and two children were fatally wounded during the shelling.
- [Rodrigo Abd, Argentina/ The Associated Press/Courtesy]
Wpp 05 daniel berehulak
March 7, 2012, Rikuzentakata, Japan: Pine trees uprooted during the tsunami lay strewn over the beach. One year later, areas of Japan most impacted by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that left 15,848 dead and 3,305 missing, continue to struggle. Thousands of people remain living in temporary dwellings. The government faces an uphill battle with the need to dispose of rubble as it works to rebuild economies and livelihoods.
- [Daniel Berehulak, Australia/Getty Images]
Wpp 06 wei seng chen
Feb. 12, 2012, Batu Sangkar, West Sumatra, Indonesia: A jockey, his feet stepped into a harness strapped to the bulls and clutching their tails, shows relief and joy at the end of a dangerous run across rice fields. The Pacu Jawi (bull race) is a popular competition at the end of harvest season keenly contested between villages.
- [Wei Seng Chen, Malaysia//Courtesy]
Wpp 08 jan grarup
Feb. 21, 2012, Mogadishu, Somalia: The Somali basketball association pays armed guards to watch over and protect Suweys and her team when they play. In Mogadishu, the war-torn capital of Somalia, young women risk their lives to play basketball. Suweys, the 19-year-old captain of a women's basketball team, and her friends defy radical Islamist views on women’s rights.
- [Jan Grarup, Denmark, Laif/Courtesy]
Wpp 09 micah albert
Apr. 3, 2012, Nairobi, Kenya: Pausing in the rain, a woman working as a trash picker at the 30-acre dump, which literally spills into households of 1 million people living in nearby slums, wishes she had more time to look at the books she comes across. She even likes the industrial parts catalogs. “It gives me something else to do in the day besides picking [trash],” she said.
- [Micah Albert, USA/ Redux Images/Courtesy]
Wpp 10 maika elan
June 22, 2012, Da Nang, Vietnam: Phan Thi Thuy Vy and Dang Thi Bich Bay, who have been together for one year, watch television to relax after studying at school. Vietnam has historically been unwelcoming to same-sex relationships. But its Communist government is considering recognizing same-sex marriage, a move that would make it the first Asian country to do so, despite past human rights issues and a long-standing stigma.
- [Maika Elan, Vietnam, Most/Courtesy]
Wpp 11 soren bidstrup
July 8, 2012, Jeselo, Italy: A family prepares to go camping on a summer holiday, but someone is up too early.
- [Søren Bidstrup, Denmark, Berlingske/Courtesy]
Wpp 12 fausto podavini
June 1, 2010, Rome, Italy: Despite her husband's life-threatening disease, Mirella devoted her life to assisting Luigi, trying to be positive and reassuring, looking after him with intense love and respect. Mirella, 71, spent 43 years of her life with the only person she loved, with all of life's difficulties, laughter, and beautiful moments. But over the last six years things changed: Mirella lived with her husband Luigi’s illness, Alzheimer’s, and devoted her life to him as his caregiver.
- [Fausto Podavini, Italy/Courtesy]
Wpp 14 ananda van der pluijm
Feb. 15, 2011, Tilburg, the Netherlands: After living with his father for 10 years and staying in a youth shelter, Martin, 18, returned home two years ago to live with his mother. He arrived with some clothes in a bag and no work or degree.
- [Ananda van der Pluijm, The Netherlands/Courtesy]
Wpp 17 christian ziegler
Nov. 16, 2012, Black Mountain Road, Australia: The endangered Southern Cassowary feeds on the fruit of the Blue Quandang tree. Cassowaries are a keystone species in northern Australian rainforests because of their ability to carry so many big seeds such long distances.
- [Christian Ziegler, Germany, National Geographic Magazine/Courtesy]
Wpp 18 paul nicklen
Nov. 18, 2011, Ross Sea, Antarctica: New science shows that Emperor Penguins are capable of tripling their swimming speed by releasing millions of bubbles from their feathers. These bubbles reduce the friction between their feathers and the icy seawater, allowing them to accelerate in the water. They use speeds of up to 30 kilometers per hour to avoid leopard seals and to launch themselves up onto the ice.
- [Paul Nicklen, Canada, National Geographic magazine/Courtesy]