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Quarter of Dutch cannabis cafes to close or relocate under wietpas rules

One in four coffeeshops in the Netherlands is facing closure because of a new rule requiring them to be at least 350 metres from the nearest school.

New rules increase the minimum distance permitted between coffeeshops and schools.The measure is one of the restrictions specified by the ‘wietpas’ law, which turns the cannabis cafes into private members’ clubs that only Dutch residents can join.

A total of 164 coffeeshops will have to close or find new premises by January 2014, when the limit on distance from schools is due to take effect.

In total 651 cafes across the Netherlands are licensed to sell small quantities of soft drugs, of which 214 are in Amsterdam.

Most of the 104 local authorities which grant licenses coffeeshops already impose a condition that they must be at least 250 metres away from any secondary school or college.

The rest of the wietpas regulations have been in force in the three southernmost provinces – Limburg, North Brabant and Zeeland – since May 1 and are due to be extended across the country on January 1.

As the law currently stands all coffeeshops will be limited to a maximum of 2,000 members and have to keep a register which local inspectors can demand to see.

However, there are signs that the rules will be watered down and local authorities given more flexibility by January 1.

It follows reports across the three southern provinces that street dealing is on the increase as cannabis users have stayed away from coffeeshops because they are reluctant to put their names and addresses on an official register.

Maastricht’s mayor, Onno Hoes, one of the main proponents of the new measures, has suggested the requirement for all coffeeshop users to register could be scrapped. Instead local residents could gain access by showing proof of address at the door.

The new law will also be on the table in the talks to form a new government between the Liberal (VVD) party, which introduced the wietpas, and the Labour (PvdA) party, which opposes it.

Senior Labour figures, including the mayors of Amsterdam and Rotterdam, have argued that the restrictions will damage vulnerable communities by leaving the door open to the illegal trade.

The law was originally devised to stop tourists travelling to the Netherlands to take advantage of the liberal drug laws.


Source: NOS: Sluiting dreigt voor 164 coffeeshops