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Dutch plan to limit pot use to residents upheld by court

This country of canals and tulips is also famous for "coffee shops" where joints and cappuccinos share the menu. Now, the Netherlands' famed tolerance for drugs could be going up in smoke.

A judge on Friday upheld a government plan to ban foreign tourists from buying marijuana by introducing a "weed pass" available only to Dutch citizens and permanent residents.

The new regulation reins in one of the country's most cherished symbols of tolerance -- its laissez-faire attitude toward soft drugs -- and reflects the drift away from a long-held view of the Netherlands as a free-wheeling utopia.

For many tourists visiting Amsterdam the image endures, and smoking a joint in a canal-side coffee shop ranks high on their to-do lists, along with visiting the Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House.

Worried that tourism will take a hit, the city's mayor, Eberhard van der Laan, is hoping to hammer out a compromise with the national government, which relies on municipalities and local police to enforce its drug policies.

Relaxing outside a coffee shop in downtown Amsterdam, Gavin Harrison and Ian Leigh of Northern Ireland said they hoped the city wouldn't change. "I think it's going to be a shame for Amsterdam; I think it's going to lose a lot of tourists," Harrison said.

Coffee shop owners have not given up the fight. A week ago they mustered a few hundred patrons for a "smoke-out" in downtown Amsterdam to protest the new restrictions.

A lawyer for the owners, Maurice Veldman, said he would file an appeal against the ruling by The Hague District court, which clears the way for the weed pass to be introduced in southern provinces on Tuesday.

If the government gets its way, the pass will roll out in the rest of the country -- including Amsterdam -- next year. It will turn coffee shops into private clubs with membership open only to Dutch residents and limited to 2,000 per shop.

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