Whether you yourself are a fan of an occasional joint or not, you were probably aware of the furor the Dutch government created when it attempted to impose the so-called 'weed pass' in 2012. The news that Dutch coffeeshops could potentially be cut off from tourists sent shock waves around the global weed-smoking community for obvious reasons: if there is one thing Amsterdam and the Netherlands in general is famous for abroad it is the fact that it is one of the few places in the world where anyone can quasi-legally consume marijuana (weed is not really legal, but it is tolerated).
A weed pass would, for all intents and purposes, put an end to the famous Dutch marijuana cafes that locals like to ironically call coffeshops (although they often do have top-notch espresso machines). Only people with a legal weed pass would be able to purchase and consume marijuana in a Dutch coffee shop, and a weed pass would only be available to legal Dutch residents. Basically, in one swift motion, tourists would be cut off from coffeeshops even as the shops continued to become one of the biggest tourist landmarks in their own right. Coffeeshops would be forced to function like country clubs with exclusive membership limited to 2000 members per shop.
As you can imagine, both city officials and local coffeeshop owners were horrified - coffeeshops bring in huge tourist revenue throughout the country. Almost immediately, 19 coffeeshops and several interest groups took the government to court to fight this proposed legislation. They lost, in spite of the fact that it is illegal to discriminate against EU citizens based on their residency, and the weed pass was rolled out in the southern parts of the country on May 1st 2012, with plans to kick in in the northern parts soon after.
Obviously the plan was full of loopholes in terms of its intended purpose: stopping small-scale drug trafficking - what would stop me buying joints for all my non-member friends, for instance? Thus, in spite of the fact that the weed pass plan kicked in in 2012, everyone assumed it would fail to spread to the northern parts of the country in 2013. And they were right: the cities of Haarlem and Amsterdam (both in the north) poked holes in the legislation until only a severely watered-down version remained. In November 2012 the Minister of Justice, Ivo Opsteleten, scrapped the plan to fully nationalize the weed pass in favor of letting municipalities decide on coffeeshop/weed pass-related measures by themselves.
The story finally got some closure yesterday when the court in the Hague ordered the Dutch government to pay reparations to companies in the Dutch south that had already implemented the weed pass and seen their revenue suffer as a result. The Minister of Justice Ivo Opsteleten will be appealing the verdict, but at this point it is pretty evident that the whole weed pass initiative was a colossal waste of time and we are back where we were in 2012. Ah, Dutch bureaucracy.