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Three-quarters of Dutch cannabis cafes will turn blind eye to official ban on tourists

Well over half of Dutch coffeeshops will continue to admit tourists from January 1 despite an official government ban on non-residents.

Our TargetMap illustrates where tourists will be allowed to visit coffeeshops in the Netherlands from 2013.A survey by The Amsterdam Herald found more than a dozen municipalities are not planning to enforce the rule that customers must show evidence that they live in the Netherlands.

The mayor of Amsterdam, which has 220 coffeeshops – around one-third of the total – has already stated publicly that visitors will not be turned away.

Crucially, the municipalities planning to follow the capital’s lead include most of those with 10 or more establishments, such as Rotterdam (43), Haarlem (16) and Utrecht (13).

Last year the Dutch government scrapped the controversial ‘wietpas’ law, which would have turned coffeeshops into private members’ clubs, and replaced it with a more flexible residency rule.

But it also gave local authorities more leeway on enforcing the rule so that it is “consistent with local coffeeshop and safety policies”.

Van der Laan said Amsterdam would not be actively checking that coffeeshop patrons are carrying a copy of their GBA – the document that shows they are on the council’s residential register.

The 45 municipalities which responded to surveys by The Amsterdam Herald and Dutch public broadcaster NOS are responsible for licensing 472 of the estimated 650 coffeeshops in the Netherlands.

Of these, 376 are in municipalities which will not be actively enforcing the rule.

Many of the councils which said they would turn tourists away, such as Maastricht and Breda, are in the three southern provinces where the wietpas was piloted in May last year.

The map of coffeeshop policies throws up several anomalies. Arnhem and Nijmegen, adjacent cities in Gelderland, take directly contrary stances, the former admitting foreigners while the latter intends to refuse them.

Marc Josemans, chairman of the Maastricht Association of Official Coffeeshops, said the Dutch government’s policy on coffeeshops was in disarray.

He said: “The chaos is complete. A large number of municipal councils don’t want this.

“What we need is clarity. We have always said that the best thing would be not to have this rule at all, but what we can’t have is a situation where one council says yes and the next council says no.”

Josemans went to court earlier this month to challenge the government’s right to keep foreigners out of coffeeshops. A judgment is expected in January.

Justice minister Ivo Opstelten, who introduced the wietpas law and its successor, insisted the policy would apply nationwide despite local councils’ decisions to abstain.

“A council can say: we’re going to focus on the opening hours of coffeeshops, closing coffeeshops, or the distance between coffeeshops and schools,” he said. “But every council must draw up a plan. If they don’t, we will be seeking answers.”