pot smoking

Dutch coffee shops face a new challenge when a ban on smoking tobacco in restaurants and cafes came into effect yesterday.

The owners claim the law, which will allow customers to light up potent tobacco-free pure cannabis joints but ban milder spliffs in which tobacco is mixed with cannabis, threatens to put hundreds of them out of business.

“It’s a bit like saying to someone you can go into a cafe and you can buy a beer, but you can’t drink it there – you’ll have to stick to whisky, rum and vodka,” said Paul Wilhelm, owner of De Tweede Kamer, a popular Amsterdam coffee shop.

As most patrons prefer milder joints in which cannabis is mixed with tobacco, and only 18% favour much stronger, pure cannabis spliffs, the fear is that the days of the coffee shops could be numbered.

The catering industry said 1,600 coffee shops across the country were up for sale because their owners were convinced their businesses were doomed.

Wilhelm, who has run his cafe since 1985, said the law was in danger of “tearing the heart out” of Amsterdam’s social life. “The focus of the De Tweede Kamer has always been social contact,” he added. “They’ll destroy that with what I see as a ridiculous law.”

With news video.