Are drugs legal in the Netherlands? Not if you're the taxman

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A politician who wants to tax soft drugs in the Netherlands has been told he can’t - because they’re illegal.

Roland van Vliet, of the Freedom Party (PVV), asked finance secretary Frans Weekers if a tax could be introduced for recreational drug use.

Van Vliet argued that it was illogical for substances such as alcohol and loose tobacco to be taxed while drugs such as cannabis are tax-free.

“If we’re having to cut €18 million from the budget, maybe drug users should dip into their pockets too,” he said in Algemeen Dagblad.

But his proposal ran into an immediate snag: a European court ruling that bans governments from levying taxes on illegal substances.

The only way the Dutch government could introduce a cannabis tax would be by making the drug legal - a move which the PVV opposes.

The legal status of soft drugs is highly ambiguous in the Netherlands. Small quantities of drugs such as cannabis are tolerated if sold in the regulated “coffee shops”, but officially they remain illegal.

Wholesale and cultivation is also banned, meaning coffee shop owners often have to resort to creative bookkeeping when they buy in stock.

The government wants to cut down on so-called “drugs tourism” by restricting access to coffee shops for foreigners, and a growing minority of politicians wants to end the “liberal experiment” altogether.

Source: PVV ziet alweer af van softdrugstax
Photo by Jocelyn Aubert

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