Dutch Cannabis Bars Not Allowed to Exclude Foreigners

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THE HAGUE, 02/04/08 - A district court in Maastricht yesterday overturned a municipal decree stating that cannabis bars must refuse foreigners as clients. French, Belgians and Germans must now be allowed in, NRC Handelsblad newspaper reported.

According to the administrative judge, the sale of cannabis is legal in practice within the Dutch law, as long as it takes place within the legal restrictions. Thus, the drugs can only be sold by licensed cafes and in amounts of up to 5 grams per client.

This means that a distinction by 'residency' amounts to indirect distinction by nationality, not permitted on grounds of the ban on discrimination in Article 1 of the constitution unless there are reasonable, objective grounds justifying it. There was no question of this here, the judge found.

The sales restriction excluding foreigners in Maastricht, which has now been ruled illegal, was introduced as an experiment in 2005 at the initiative of the then Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner as an experiment. Maastricht city council had closed a coffee shop - tolerated cannabis bars are called coffee shops in the Netherlands - for three months in 2006 because it did not keep to the city's ban on foreign clients.
 
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