Update on Banning Drug Tourism in Holland

A recent court ruling makes it appropriate to follow up on my August post about drug tourism in Maastricht and its externalities

An EU judge has upheld the legality of Maastricht’s proposal to restrict “coffee shop” sales to Dutch citizens. This decision probably saves the coffee shops as a social experiment in the long term despite the fact that the loss of tourist business will make some of them fold. Maastricht and a number of other cities were planning to close their shops rather than continue to experience the problems that come with drug tourism.


  1. Bruce says

    But, but, but drug tourism was going to make California millions. Ya trying to tell me the locals don't actually like it?

  2. cwh says


    All sarcasm aside, it's only an issue so long as the regulatory arbitrage which creates the demand for Drug Tourism exists. It may also turn out that in a less concentrated form (e.g. the entire state of California versus a few square blocks of a few Dutch cities), it's much less irritating or noticable.

    For comparison, look at the level of public drunkenness that seems to occur in an area where a block or two of streets are almost entirely bars, versus the bar in a local restaurant. The percentage of seriously drunk patrons may (or may not–I don't have data here, only observations of both locales) be roughly the same, but I definitely notice it a lot more when it's in the concentrated area.

  3. Bruce says


    I've only visited the Netherlands once, and I'm far from an expert, but I can say that in A'dam the coffee shops and "smart shops" spread over far more than "a few square blocks."

  4. Leo says

    Yes, and in Amsterdam it isn't much of a problem. But in Maastricht, which is a much smaller town, it is.

  5. Barry says

    What concerns me is that this seems to be contrary to the laws of the EU, which (IANAL) require not discriminating in such fashion.

  6. says

    We had alcohol tourism in the US before the drinking age was standardized at 21. It's a serious problem. Essentially, the externalities caused by someone having to travel to get stoned are more severe than the externalities caused by someone who gets stoned locally.

  7. says


    Alcohol tourism still exists in the US. I live in New York's Westchester County, where the bars are open until 4 AM; in Connecticut, immediately to the east, the bars close at 2 AM. The rate of drunken driving in the towns bordering the state line is much higher than on the west side of the county.

  8. Keith Humphreys says

    Barry: Yes, this ruling is against what has been the general norm in the EU, e.g., for alcohol sales

    Dilan: The externalities are not simply the result of people having to travel to get drugs legally, they also stem from selection, i.e., people willing to make a special trip to get drugs are a non-random sample of all drug users and one with higher externalities than other drug users whether they are at home or abroad. The same is true of the nonrandom subset of drinkers who are willing to travel just to get in on "all you can drink" resort deal.

    All: For more on this issue see