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Coffeeshop owners lose court battle against ban on tourists

The leader of Maastricht’s association of coffeeshop owners has lost a legal challenge against the city’s mayor over new rules banning foreigners from his premises.

Coffeeshop owners tried to stop the council from enforcing the law banning foreigners from cannabis cafes.Marc Josemans had sought an injunction against the mayor, Onno Hoes, to stop him enforcing the so-called ‘wietpas’ law which came into force on May 1.

Mr Josemans’ Easy Going coffeeshop was closed for a month after he refused to provide a list of registered members for council officials.

He asked the court to intervene so he could continue trading while he takes legal action to overturn the law, which is due to apply across the whole country from January 1.

Under the new laws, only registered members, who must have a permanent address in the Netherlands, are allowed to enter coffeeshops and the membership of each cafe is limited to 2,000.

The rules are designed to reduce drugs tourism and public disorder caused by foreigners travelling to the Netherlands to buy soft drugs.

Thirteen of the 14 coffeeshops in Maastricht have closed their doors in protest against the regulations, which they say will have the opposite of the intended effect.

Police in the three southern provinces have reported an increase in street dealing and introduced extra patrols.

Greater disturbances have been experienced in Maastricht, in part because of the closure of the city’s coffeeshops. Councillors have appealed to the justice ministry to send more police officers to the city, describing the situation as “shocking”.

Maastricht’s coffeeshop owners are due to decide later on Monday what action they should take next. Easy Going’s is free to open now that its one-month ban has expired.

Mr Josemans, who is chairman of the Maastricht Association of Official Coffeeshops (VMOC) told The Amsterdam Herald last month that the wietpas law would end the Netherlands' 'liberal experiment' aimed at containing the damage caused by drugs.

Frans Heeres, the police chief in charge of enforcing drugs policy, said the rise in street dealing was manageable. “We have to take the long view and keep a close eye on street dealers,” he told the state broadcaster NOS.