The Dutch are reining in their traditionally loose laws regarding public marijuana consumption. This week, the Hague became the first Dutch city to outlaw smoking cannabis in the city center.
After complaints from residents, it is no longer legal to smoke pot in 13 designated places, including the city’s major shopping areas and central railway station. The ban will be enacted within two weeks and will stand for two years, after which time it will be re-evaluated.
Coffee shops, hotels, and homeless shelters will distribute flyers (in English) to explain the new policy.
A spokesperson for The Hague told The Guardian that “the use of soft drugs has a negative impact on the living environment of residents and visitors” in the places where the ban will be enacted. Alcohol consumption has already been banned in these areas.
Those caught violating the ban will be subject to a fine, cost determined by public prosecutor.
Dutch marijuana regulations operate in a bit of a loophole. Although recreational cannabis use is not legal, the country has gedoogbeleid (tolerance policy). There are 573 coffeeshops across the country which openly sell marijuana. Cannabis is openly sold in 103 out of the 380 Dutch municipalities, including major tourist cities like The Hague, Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
However, policy towards marijuana has changed in recent years. Because of both stronger strains of the drug and less-culturally-aware tourists, the Netherlands is becoming more strict. Coffeeshops along the country’s border are banned from selling marijuana to tourists. In 2012, the country tried to enact a plan that would restrict cannabis sales to Dutch residents (dubbed the “weed pass”), however that has not progressed.