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Dutch ‘Coffee Shops’ spark EU controversy.
MAASTRICHT, a picturesque border town with cobbled streets, historic buildings and street cafés, at the southern most point of the Netherlands, has recently become the centre of an EU controversy: for it’s not only the traditional tourist sites that attract visitors.
Officials claim thousands of ‘drug tourists’ turn up every day, reports The Guardian. Their destination is not the town’s 13th century church but the 13 ‘coffee shops’ where marijuana and hashish can be bought legally. The town is within easy driving distance of Belgium, France and Germany.
The ‘coffee shop’ appeared in the hip 1970s before free border movement was the norm; the thinking behind them was to keep Dutch youth safe. Nowadays patrons are young but few are Dutch. 'Our policy has been abused, misused, totally perverted,' said Cyrille Fijnaut, a professor at the University of Tilburg law school.
The city’s fight to make the use of soft drugs legal only for the Dutch has been backed by the EU advocate general, which may mean the demise of the ‘coffee shop’. Owners are not too worried however, as this would contradict EU free trade laws. Coffee shops are also quite a source of tax revenue for the Dutch government and provide employment.
A ruling from the EU Court on this unique issue is expected by the end of the year.