Dutch drug tourism


A coffee shop in Amsterdam (Image: beavela, Flickr)

The government in the Netherlands is known for its lax approach to drugs -- it allows the sale of marijuana, for example, at special bars known as coffee shops. But lately, Dutch officials have started to take a stricter approach. Next week, a new law goes into affect -- it bans the sale of hallucinogenic mushrooms in the Netherlands. There's also been a reaction against marijuana -- some local Dutch officials are fed up with foreigners who invade their towns in search of pot.

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"The World's" Emily Kop reports from Bergen-op-Zoom in the Netherlands.

According to the town's mayor, Han Polman, about 25,000 people a week come to Bergen-op-Zoom and a neighboring town just to buy marijuana. They come from Belgium and even from France and Germany -- pot is illegal in all of those countries.

Polman: "We have the message: please drug tourists, stay in your own neighborhoods ..."

Personally, Polman says, he thinks other countries should not ban marijuana; rather Europe as a whole, should regulate it. But since that's not about to happen any time soon, Polman is taking matters into his own hands. He plans to close Bergen-op-Zoom's four coffee shops that sell marijuana.

Polman says that should send the foreigners a strong message: "So it's not all freedom, and all possibilities in the Netherlands -- it's always a policy where we try to have good health, public order, security and safety."

Other towns are also getting tough -- Amsterdam is closing a fifth of its 228 coffee shops because they are too close to schools. But national politicians aren't listening, they say there'll be no changes in the soft drug law for at least a year. There's a big reason why: polls show the majority of Dutch people like things just the way they are.