After a favorable EU ruling, the City of Maastricht banned tourists from its cannabis cafes about six months ago. As a border city, Maastricht was a magnet for drug tourism and most of the shops were not supported (economically or politically) by the local population. I had assumed that such a step would not be taken in Amsterdam, but the city leadership has been overruled by the national government, which will restrict cannabis access to Dutch citizens nationwide. Some people are mystified that a country would take a step to reduce tourism, particularly during an economic downturn, so let me quote from a post I wrote last year:

One might wonder why the Dutch would not want drug tourism, given that governments normally do their best to lure tourists to visit and to spend money. The coffee shop owners of course want drug tourists and the profits they bring. But the rest of community endures more costs than benefits.

The central problem with drug tourism is one of selection: People who will travel even an hour to use drugs are not a random sample of all drug users. The same principle applies to all those Brits who fly RyanAir to Spain for all-you-can-drink weekend promotions at budget hotels, and the U.S. college kids on spring break who are drawn to similar offers in Mexico. Cannabis users as a population are not particularly prone to vandalism, disorderly conduct, and petty theft, but the subpopulation of users that will take a trip (no pun intended) for cannabis often commit these crimes, creating nuisance, distress and policing costs for locals.

A further cost to the country that attracts drug tourists is how more serious criminals respond. If you are a dealer in cocaine or ectstasy or methamphetamine, and you want to efficiently access a pool of probable customers, border towns with drug tourists are attractive bases of operations. There you will find many young men who are by definition unusually interested in using drugs and are away from whatever social constraints and norms surround them at home.

[Cross-posted at Same Facts]

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Keith Humphreys is a Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and served as Senior Policy Advisor in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in the Obama Administration. @KeithNHumphreys