Smoking tolerance level [1= very illegal 5=virtually legal]: 5

Legal status: In the Netherlands, drug use is not a criminal offence. “cquisition of drugs, for personal use, is not a criminal offence. Possession is technically a crime, but it is an offence widely tolerated by the courts and the public.

Dutch law does make distinctions between hard and soft drugs. By decriminalizing pot and hash and allowing their sale in strictly-regulated coffee shops, the government hopes to promote health and safety among smokers while discouraging them from graduating to harder narcotics.

Law Enforcement: 2007, a change for the worse: “Coffee shops licensed to sell marijuana in the southern Dutch city of Maastricht will begin fingerprinting customers and scanning their IDs this summer, a spokesman for the shops said Wednesday. The measures are aimed at ensuring the rules of the Netherlands famed tolerance policy are not violated, which could lead to shops being closed, said Marc Josemans, chairman of the Union of Maastricht’s Coffee Shops.

“This is not something that we are doing willingly, but with pain in our hearts,” Josemans told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday. He said shops in Rotterdam and several Dutch border cities were considering following suit.

“We’re very afraid we’re going to lose customers over this, and to be honest we’re even a little ashamed we’re doing it, but the City of Maastricht has such harsh punishments that we don’t feel we have any choice,” he said.

Fingerprints would be coupled with a digital photograph and a scan of customers’ ID cards — removing all personal information except date of birth — and then stored on a computer system at the shop.

When a customer wants to buy weed, he will have to prove that he or she is of age, and has not already purchased the 5-gram limit that day at the same store.

“We’re not going to give this information to anybody else, and we’re not linked to each other or the Internet,” Josemans said.

He said the shops already had video surveillance cameras and cooperated with police in criminal investigations, but the stored fingerprints would be too low in quality for use by police.”

“Maastricht – the very symbol of a Europe without frontiers – has banned visiting drug users and granted police sweeping powers to expel foreigners on the slightest suspicion of an intention to buy drugs,” reported the Reuters news agency. “No proof is needed.”

Where to buy Marijuana in Maastricht: Coffeshops are the safest and most acceptable place to buy Marijuana – Quality is guarenteed, and prices are competative.

Maastricht Marijuana prices: Costs are comparable to those in Amsterdam, with marijuana starting around the equivalent of four dollars for a gram or $6 per gram for hash. As in Amsterdam, the stoner culture has been firmly established in Maastricht.

Country: Holland

City Tale:

Maastricht, the oldest city in the Netherlands, differs from Amsterdam in numerous ways.

“Maastricht is about as diametrically opposed to its northern cousin as two cities within one European country can be,” said a visitor named Kifwebe. Where Amsterdam is dirty and bustling, Maastricht is impeccably clean and quiet. Amsterdam is the hub of Dutch heritage but Maastricht, situated in a finger of land between Belgium and Germany, reflects heavy

French and German influences. Amsterdam has 725,000 residents, about 600,000 more than Maastricht.

However, there is one important shared feature: “coffee shops” where world-class marijuana and hash are purchased and smoked openly. “[Coffee shops] exist solely to provide a safe, clean place for people to legally buy small quantities of hashish and marijuana to smoke on the premises or take home,” said an unnamed traveller who sampled the Maastricht wares. “That’s extremely high-quality hash and wacky weed: Pollen, Double Pollen, Moroccan hash,

gold or red Lebanese.”

In Maastricht, city ordinance forbids the sale of alcohol in coffeeshops; weed only.

Costs are comparable to those in Amsterdam, with marijuana starting around the equivalent of four dollars for a gram or $6 per gram for hash. As in Amsterdam, the stoner culture has been firmly established in Maastricht.

“The dozen or so kids who were there [in the coffee shop] were just that – kids, 15 or 16 year olds,” the unnamed traveller said. “Boys and girls smoking good pot in bongs and chillums provided by the shop, drinking sodas – no booze – and watching TV.” The best time of the year to visit Maastricht is when the whole city cuts loose during the annual Carnaval.

“First thing to know is that the people in the southern part of the Netherlands have ‘party’ in their blood,” said an American tourist. “If you are the outgoing type that would like to see the Dutch party for four days straight, I would say visit the city during the February Carnaval.”

After smoking up, visitors may also want to explore the 10 kilometres of tunnels on the city’s western side or just chill out at the popular Vogelstruys pub on Vrijthof square.

Zubricus, an American, enjoyed the amenities offered in Maastricht’s city centre.

“There really is nothing quite like having the concierge say to you, ‘Have a pleasant evening sir’ as you leave to go across the street to Café That’s It and get baked,” he said. “In Maastricht the Amsterdam rules apply; beer and weed served in every coffee shop I visited.”

He also recommended Take It Easy Café and Café Easy for their smoke as well as the “friendly staff.”

The Netherlands is perhaps the world’s friendliest destination for soft drug users. “In the Netherlands, drug use is not a criminal offence,” according to NORML, a marijuana advocacy

group. “Acquisition of drugs, for personal use, is not a criminal offence.” Possession is technically a crime, but it is an offence widely tolerated by the courts and the public.

“It’s rather accepted in our culture,” said Dutch newspaper journalist Kurt Van Es. “When there is opposition, it’s aimed at hard drugs, or too much noise, or other criminal activity.” Dutch law does make distinctions between hard and soft drugs. By decriminalizing pot and hash and allowing their sale in strictly-regulated coffee shops, the government hopes to promote health and safety among smokers while discouraging them from graduating to harder narcotics.

“We have broken the link between soft and hard drugs,” said Ton Cramer of the Dutch health ministry. “The large majority of people who experiment with cannabis don’t go on to harder drugs.” Maastricht has the same drug laws and coffee shop culture as Amsterdam, but in this university town three hours south the authorities are not as tolerant of foreign drug tourists. Due to its proximity to Belgium and Germany, Maastricht endures an estimated rush of 600 to 1,000 foreigners who come to buy drugs each day. “We felt we were under siege,” said Deputy Mayor Theo Bovens.

Many of those are hard drug users seeking cheap heroin. In response, authorities have taken some drastic steps that affect soft drug users as well. “Maastricht – the very symbol of a Europe without frontiers – has banned visiting drug users and granted police sweeping powers to expel foreigners on the slightest suspicion of an intention to buy drugs,” reported the Reuters news agency. “No proof is needed.”

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