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Monday, October 27, 2008

Dutch towns 'swamped by drug tourists'

From correspondents in The Hague

TWO Dutch towns are planning to close their cannabis smoking coffee shops after admitting that an influx of up to 25,000 French and Belgian "drug tourists" each week had become too much.

Local authorities in southwestern Roosendaal and Bergen-op-Doom announced they could no longer cope with the "drug tourists" whose presence they blamed for traffic congestion, crime and unlicenced dealing.

"Soft drug tourism is the motor of criminality linked to (harder) drugs," they said in a joint statement. "It has an overwhelming negative effect on public order."

All eight coffee shops in the two towns will shut, with closures beginning in February 2009.

"The mayor of Roosendaal thinks we could close them all within two years," town hall spokeswoman Marjolein Koppens said.

Until then, all local coffee shops will be forced to limit the sale of cannabis to two grams per customer per day instead of the current five grams.

Liberal drugs laws in the Netherlands allow people to carry five grams of marijuana on their person without being prosecuted.

Another border town, Terneuzen, announced yesterday it would toughen its local by-laws on the sale of cannabis from May next year. Opening hours would be restricted and the amount each customer could buy would also be reduced.