Dutch end tolerance of cannabis cafés close to schools
AMSTERDAM is to close down nearly 20 per cent of its cannabis cafés to comply with a national ban on locating them near schools.
Mayor Job Cohen yesterday announced his decision to close the shops ahead of a "weed summit" taking place among representatives of major Dutch cities, who are debating the nation's long-standing tolerance policy.
The policy on soft drugs in the Netherlands is one of the most liberal in Europe. Marijuana is technically illegal in Amsterdam, but it can be sold in small amounts in designated cafs or coffee shops without anybody being prosecuted. Some cafs also sell "magic mushrooms", which have psychedelic properties.
It has been legal since the 1960s for people to be in possession of less than 5g (just under 2oz) of marijuana. However, the cultivation or supply of the drug to the shops is banned.
More than a quarter of the country's coffee shops are in Amsterdam, where they are a major tourist attraction.
Authorities have written to 43 shops which are located within 250 metres of high schools that they will have to close by the end of 2011.
The cafes slated for closure include some landmarks, such as the Bulldog, which is very popular with tourists and has operated on one of the city's main squares since 1985.
The summit is also expected to tackle other problems, such as the routine arrest of cannabis cultivators and suppliers and relations with border cities, which complain they are saddled with disproportionate problems as a result of German, French and Belgian "drug tourists".
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