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EUROPEAN COURT TO RULE ON DUTCH COFFEE SHOPS

By NBF News
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Millions of tourists take advantage of the Dutch tolerance of the use of cannabis in coffee shops

The European Court of Justice is set to rule on an attempt by the Netherlands to ban tourists from the country's cannabis-selling coffee shops.

The centre-right coalition government plans to turn coffee shops into private members' clubs amid concerns about the threat the drug tourism trade poses to the Dutch way of life.

But the court may find the plan violates EU rules on equal treatment.

The EU guarantees a free market in goods and services.

There are some 700 coffee shops in the Netherlands, attracting millions of drug tourists a year in a lucrative trade.

The cultivation and sale of soft drugs through coffee shops is decriminalised but not legal.

Drug-related attacks
Cannabis use is tolerated in small amounts, with possession and purchases limited to 5g per adult, regardless of the consumer's nationality.

But the deluge of visitors – particularly to border towns – and a spate of drug-related attacks in the south of the country have spurred the coalition government to act.

It wants to introduce a membership system that will put coffee shops out of bounds to non-residents, and is confident the court will decide that soft drugs are not subject to the same rules as legal goods, says the BBC's Geraldine Coughlan in The Hague.

The country's 30-year-old soft drugs tourism trade may soon be over if the court agrees, our correspondent says.