Maastricht: Shuttered Coffee Shops
According to the Vereniging Officiele Coffeeshops Maastricht (VOCM), there were 31 coffee shops in Maastricht in 1993, a population that dropped to 16 in 2006. A law that went into effect this past spring in three southern border provinces — including Limburg where Maastricht is located — has essentially closed all of the coffee houses in Maastricht.
As I understand the law after reading a few articles and chatting with my Dutch friends, all foreigners are prohibited from Dutch coffee shops. Additionally, any Dutch person who would like to visit a coffee house must now first register with the government and obtain a “weed pass.”
The practical impact of this new law means that foreigners have filed discrimination law suits and are no longer traveling to these areas of The Netherlands to legally purchase cannabis. This is reducing tax revenue and reducing the amount foreigners spend in the local economy on hotels, gas, and food. One article I read suggested that the City of Maastricht would lose $41 million in tourism revenue as a result of the law, but didn’t provide details on how that estimate was calculated or the time frame it covered. Another article suggested a 60% drop in tourism revenue since the laws went into effect.
The primary reason the Dutch adopted a tolerant policy toward coffee shops back in the 1970s was to separate “soft” and “hard” drug markets and to reduce the number of street dealers. Apparently street dealers were practically non-existent when the coffee houses were open. However, with the closure of all coffee houses, Dutch consumers are turning to illegal street dealers who are apparently visible on streets throughout the city.
I find the situation an interesting economic and political study, a first-hand example of how laws drive human behaviors. But mostly I just want to take photographs. So here are three shots of the shuttered coffee shops in Maastricht.
Shuttered Coffee Shop Photo #1. Coffee Shop Kosbor.
Shuttered Coffee Shop Photo #2. Lucky Time Coffee Shop in a less lucky time.
Shuttered Coffee Shop Photo #3. As a resident of Somewhere-in-the-Middle-of-the-USA, I wonder how they decided to name this shop the Missouri Coffee Shop. And also why they abbreviated it as “Miss” which to Americans is a whole different state.
- Vereniging Officiele Coffeeshops Maastricht (VOCM) Web Site
- Dutch-Only Cannabis Coffee Shop Policy Meets Resistance
- Dutch Elections: The Battle for the Stoner Vote
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Very interesting post!! I had heard about that law but didn’t know they actually went ahead with it. When I visited Amsterdam I was a little leery about the lax drug and booze laws there, especially since we were travelling with a group of teenagers, but I soon came to believe that they must be doing something right because it seemed to be a very well behaved city. I remember walking down the street and a guy walked by me drinking out of a bottle of wine. At first, I felt very uncomfortable, but after a few days I got used to it, and I never saw any fights or anyone out of control. It was really rather fascinating to see how differently things are done there.
It’s interesting to hear your perspective, Loony, and I agree with your observations. Yes, the drinking age throughout nearly all of Europe is much lower than in the US. However, even during Carnaval, I consistently saw fewer drunk and rowdy people than any given weekend night in bars across the US. NO ONE would even THINK of getting behind the wheel if they’d been drinking.
Yes, the laws for smoking “soft” drugs like pot are lax, but I never saw any of my Dutch friends using drugs. They might have and I just didn’t know, but it wasn’t like the law lead to widespread usage from my perspective.
I love it that no one would think about getting behind the wheel of a car after drinking. I wish we could get more people to think that way here!!
You and me both! The biggest difference I saw in Europe was the severity of punishment for crossing the line even one time. It’s amazing how that will shape behavior.
The Missouri shot is just interesting. Why Missouri? Thanks for this post
Exactly! That’s what I asked myself as a current resident of Somewhere-in-the-Middle-of-the-US very near Missouri, “Why Missouri?!?!?!” 🙂
Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving your comment!
I thought at first t was some sort of April Fools Joke ….but its November! Interesting and a puzzle at the same time. As to the shots more ‘Shutterdown’ than ‘Shutterbug’
Yep, everything in shuttered up, that’s for sure! Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving your comment!
Great shots and indeed very interesting seeing as they are struggling with a recession the same way we are in the US. You’d think they’d want to drive tourism no matter what the cost and get some money rolling. Not that I’m a real proponent of drugs by any way, shape or means, however, it seemed to me that they had managed to get the “illegal” part of the drug problem under control by the “Coffee Shop” method. Strange decision all things considered.
I know, it is a really interesting study in economics, law, and driving desired behavior!