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Dutch Voters Leave Fate of “Weed Pass” Hanging

Clock Continues Ticking For Pot Tourists in The Netherlands.

AMSTERDAM—Voters in The Netherlands may have lost their final chance to block the nationwide imposition of the wietpas, or so-called "weed pass," as the law of the land in The Netherlands next year. On Wednesday, a crucial election in Holland determined the outline of a new coalition government under the narrowest of leads for the anti-immigration, anti-marijuana PVV party of Prime Minister Mark Rutte. The election featured a virtual tie with the center-left Labour Party (PvdA) upstart Diederik Samsom, who opposed the idea of closing marijuana shops to foreigners.  But with 150 seats in the Dutch Parliament, experts say at least six parties will be involved in building a new coalition government. Cannabis advocates were hoping for a clear victory by the Labour Party and strong showings by other liberal parties.
Under legislation that came into effect in the south of the country in May, coffee shops effectively became private clubs, selling cannabis only to registered members, who must be Dutch, and able to prove it. The conservative government maintained that foreign drug criminals were replenishing inventory through the border shops, leading to violence and arrests.
As AP reported last week: “The center-left Labor Party [PvdA], which is surging in pre-election polls thanks to strong performances by its leader Diederik Samsom in televised debates, also advocates scrapping the pass and replacing it with legislation that would further enshrine tolerance of marijuana in Dutch law and regulate not only coffee shops but also growers. However, the coffee shops still have a fight on their hands – the conservative VVD party of outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte is topping polls and looks set to become the biggest single party.”
And that, more or less, is how it turned out. With a one-seat margin in various exit polls late Wednesday night in The Netherlands, the sitting VVD Prime Minister will want to stay the course and take marijuana out of the hands of foreigners, starting in January, 2013.
Dutch poll watchers had predicted a tight race between the conservative VVD and the liberal PvdA, with an additional dozen parties likely to land seats in a new coalition government. The VVD's election manifesto specifically supported the weed pass, as did other right-leaning parties in The Netherlands. 
"I don't want to apply for a pass because then everybody could see your personal information," one coffee shop owner told AP. "You don't have to do it in a bar to get alcohol, so why in a coffee shop?"
The only silver lining for pot tourists is a possible scenario in which a VVD-led coalition, having originally introduced the concept of the weed pass, winds up negotiating a centrist mashup in which all parties might be likely to barter away the weed pass in return for other policy favors. Moreover, the far-right PVV party led by Geert Wilders suffered heavy losses. The Financieele Dagblad writes that in any case, voters will not be happy, "because any coalition is going to cause pain. The jigsaw that is a new cabinet will consist of many pieces. The results will be complex, just as in 2010."
Photo Credit: http://www.rnw.nl