Sunday, July 18, 2010
Last week, Advocate General for the European Court of Justice (ECJ) Yve Bot opined that Dutch towns may ban foreigners from marijuana coffeeshops without violating European Union (EU) rules of free movement of goods and persons. The Dutch town of Maastrict is near the border with Belgium and 70% of the business of its local marijuana coffeeshops came from foreign tourists, primarily from Belgium and France. The mayor of Maastrict ordered at least one coffeeshop closed and the owners brought suit before the Dutch Council of State, claiming the closures violated the EU rules providing for the free movement of goods, persons and services. The Dutch Council of State has requested a ruling from the ECJ. The AG stated that because drugs are generally illegal substances (unless used for medical purposes), they are not governed by the normal rules of free movement. Instead, drugs may be exempted from internal market rules because they may be considered a genuine and serious threat to public order. Although the ECJ is not bound by the reasoning and conclusions of its advocates general, it often finds them persuasive and follows them. The ECJ ruling is expected at the end of the year.