Coffeeshops are establishments in the Netherlands where the sale of cannabis for personal consumption by the public is tolerated by the local authorities (in Dutch called gedoogbeleid).
Under the drug policy of the Netherlands, the sale of cannabis products in small quantities is allowed by ‘licensed’ coffee shops. The majority of these “coffeeshops” (in Dutch written as one word) also serve drinks and food. Coffeeshops are not allowed to serve alcohol (although in the past some coffeeshops in central Amsterdam have transgressed this law without reproach) or other drugs, and risk closure if they are found to be selling soft drugs to minors, hard drugs or selling alcohol without a license. The idea of coffeeshops was introduced in the 1970s for the explicit purpose of keeping hard and soft drugs separated.
In the Netherlands, 105 of the 443 municipalities have at least one coffeeshop. Many at the borders sell mostly to foreigners (mostly from Belgium, Germanyand France), who can also buy marijuana in their own countries, but prefer the legality and higher product quality of Dutch coffeeshops. In May 2011 the Dutch confirmed plans to ban foreigners from patronizing coffee shops, and to roll out the policy in the southern provinces of Limburg, Noord Brabant and Zeeland by the end of 2011 and the rest of the country in 2012. Coffeeshops become members-only clubs, while only adults living in the Netherlands can become a member.
Dutch coffee houses not serving marijuana are called koffiehuis (literally “coffee house”), while a café is the equivalent of a bar.
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