Dutch Coffee Shops Close as Authorities Weed out Drug Tourists
Each year, thousands of German drug tourists cross the border into the Dutch town of Enschede, where soft drugs such as marijuana are sold openly. Now, a government crackdown is forcing many coffee shops out of business.
A dense, sweet-smelling smoke fills the room in the De Molen coffee shop. Here in the Dutch city of Enschede, the streets are littered with places like De Molen, which openly sell soft drugs such as hashish or marijuana.
But dozens of coffee shops have had to close shop in recent months, reflecting a growing consensus in the Netherlands that the country's notoriously liberal drug policy is currently doing more harm than good.
Enschede has been particularly problematic for local authorities, because of its immediate proximity to the German border. Thousands of drug tourists, mainly from Germany, pour across the border each year for a taste of legal marijuana, a controlled substance in almost every country of the world -- including, technically, the Netherlands.
"Many Germans come to visit Enschede just because of our coffee shops -- that is a fact," says Enschede city spokesman Michael Haase. Indeed, the nearest coffee shop is located just 300 meters beyond the border checkpoint.
The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has published a brochure complaining that shops located along the German border "frequently" cause trouble. And Haase says local residents are sometimes harassed by glassy-eyed drug tourists.
Enschede's drug trade has also become a liability for the border police, as drug tourists are regularly caught trying to smuggle the lucrative weed back into their home country.