NETHERLANDS: A young man at a bus stop hisses at a passer-by: “What you looking for … marijuana?” It’s a scene of street peddling that the Netherlands hoped to stamp out in the 1970s when it launched a policy of tolerating “coffee shops” where people could buy and smoke pot freely.
But Maastricht’s street dealers are back, local residents complain. And the reason is a crackdown on coffee-shops triggered by another problem: Pot tourists who crossed the border to visit the cafes and made a nuisance of themselves by snarling traffic, dumping litter and even urinating in the streets.
This exchange of one drug problem for another has become a headache for Maastricht – and may give reason for pause in the U.S. states of Washington and Colorado that recently allowed the sale of marijuana for the first time. The Netherlands, the world pioneer in pot liberalization, has recently taken a harder line toward marijuana, with mixed results seen particularly in border towns such as Maastricht.