The Netherlands: Maastricht coffeeshop association close doors to most tourists

The Netherlands – Now it has become reality: Most coffeeshops in the Dutch city of Maastricht have banned foreign tourists, except those from Germany and Belgium, from entering their premises from Saturday, according to the local association of coffee shops. "We have put in place a ’neighbouring country’ criteria," Marc Josemans, president of the Society of United Coffeeshops and owner of the Easy Going coffee shop, told CNN. "This is a form of self-regulation. It is not a law, there will be no judge, this was just the only choice we had."

The Netherlands: Maastricht coffeeshops close doors to most tourists

The move comes after Maastricht’s city council decided that something had to be done about the 2.2 million visitors that come to the city everyyear, according to Josemans. "The visitors put a lot of pressure on the city when they come here and make it very busy on our narrow streets. So the city said that something had to be done about the traffic and nuisance," he said. "But the biggest nuisance isn’t the number of coffee shops or the clients, but the illegal drug runners that can be quite aggressive and start fights and rob the tourists."

All visitors to Maastricht’s coffee shops — some 6,000 a day, almost three-quarters of whom are foreign, according to Josemans — already have to show their passports and their information is then kept for 48 hours. Now only those with a Dutch, German or Belgian passport will be allowed in.

A spokeswoman for Maastricht police told CNN that the police were not a party to the ban and that it is not illegal for foreign tourists to enter the city’s coffee shops. The spokeswoman, who is not named in line with department policy, said police would not carry out any identity checks to enforce the ban. "We will just go about our normal business and carry out our duties where needed," she said. The Society of United Coffeeshops decided on the ban in July but it only came into effect October 1.

Josemans also says the Dutch government wants the coffee shops to operate on a smaller scale and is planning to impose a nationwide ban on anyone who doesn’t hold a Dutch passport buying cannabis. "They want to put this ’weed pass’ in place from January 1 next year, but we are strongly against this." A press release on the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice website from May this year says coffee shops will become private clubs where only adult Dutch citizens can become members.

There is one coffee shop in Maastricht that is not attached to the local association of coffee shops, the Rasta Fari Boni. This shop, located at the Stenenbrug 7, in Maastricht is still open for everybody over 18 years old, without discriminating  by nationality.

USA: ATF Says No Guns for Medical Marijuana Patients

In a memo released last week, the US Department of Justice has notified federal firearms dealers that medical marijuana patients are "addicts" or "unlawful drug users" who cannot legally own weapons or ammunition. A medical marijuana registration card is proof enough to deny a weapons sale, the memo said. The memo was authored by Arthur Herbert, Assistant Director for Enforcement Programs and Services for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF).

Herbert said he wrote the memo after receiving "a number of inquiries about the use of marijuana for medical purposes, and its applicability to federal firearms laws." Herbert cited the section of the federal criminal code that prohibits anyone who is "an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance" from possessing firearms.

He reminded firearms dealers that they cannot legally sell guns to people they have reasonable cause to believe are illegal drug users or addicts and wrote that anyone presenting a medical marijuana registration card is providing reasonable cause for the dealer to believe they are illegal drug users or addicts.

USA: Activist Dana Beal Sentenced, Suffers Heart Attack

Iconic activist Dana Beal suffered a heart attack while in a Wisconsin jail awaiting transfer to a state prison to begin serving a 2 ½ prison sentence for marijuana trafficking. According to and the Free Dana Beal and Free Ourselves Facebook page, Beal was stricken Tuesday morning, and at last report, he was hospitalized in stable condition under sedation at the Intensive Care Unit at St. Mary's Hospital in Madison.

Last week, Beal was sentenced to prison in Wisconsin after pleading guilty to trafficking 180 pounds of pot in a bust that unraveled when his 1997 Chevy van got pulled over for expired tags and no tail light. He also got 2 ½ years of probation to be served after his jail time. He got credit for 267 days already served.

Despite courtroom testimonials from Beal supporters, including "Guru of Ganja" Ed Rosenthal and Wisconsin medical marijuana patient Jacki Rickert, Beal got prison time. But it was less than the four years the prosecution asked for and well below the 15 year maximum allowable under Wisconsin law. Beal was already on probation after being busted with another 100-pound-plus load in Nebraska in 2009.

The previous year, the New York City-based activist saw more than $100,000 in cash seized in Illinois, although he avoided any convictions in that case. He also has previous drug convictions in 1971, 1987, 1993 and 2006.

USA: Rhode Island Governor Nixes Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Bowing to pressure from Washington, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee announced Thursday afternoon that he will not allow the state to move forward with a plan to open three long-delayed medical marijuana dispensaries. That leaves thousands of Rhode Island patients to their own devices when it comes to procuring their medicine.

"After much internal and external discussion and research, I have decided that the State of Rhode Island cannot proceed with the licensing and regulation of medical marijuana compassion centers under current law,'' Chafee said in a statement.

The announcement came two days after the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition announced its plans to sue the governor and force him to lift his hold on the compassion centers. Rhode Island became a medical marijuana state in 2006, when the legislature overrode a gubernatorial veto to pass the Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act. But that law did not allow for dispensaries, and in 2009, the legislature passed a law authorizing the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana through three state-registered and -regulated dispensaries.

Brought to you by The Greenish Warbler

October 3rd 2011

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