The reputation of the Netherlands as the go-to country for a legal joint will begin to vanish like a puff of smoke as sales to foreigners of cannabis and hashish in coffee shops are banned.
The Dutch government has been clamping down on the sale of soft drugs since 2007 because of gang-related crime and concern about the risk to health, particularly as stronger forms of cannabis have been introduced.
The new rules, which will first take effect in the south and gradually be extended countrywide, limit sales of cannabis to residents of the Netherlands who must enroll as members of a coffee shop.
The rules came into effect on January 1, 2012, but will not be enforced until May 1, starting in the three southern provinces where drug tourism is most common and regarded as a problem by many local residents.
The rest of the country, including Amsterdam, whose drugs scene is a tourist magnet, will enforce the new rules from January 1, 2013.
From that year onwards, a coffee shop can have a maximum of 2,000 members.
The Dutch government, whose push for a stricter drugs policy is led by the Christian Democrats party, will forbid any coffee shops within 350 meters of a school, effective in 2014.
The government launched a plan to ban what it considered to be highly potent forms of cannabis –known as “skunk“– in October 2011, placing these in the same category as hard drugs such as heroin or cocaine.