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Netherlands / Supreme Court / 14/02392

Accused v Public Prosecutor

Policy area:
Free movement and equality
Deciding Body type:
National Court/Tribunal
Decision date:

Key facts of the case:

It is prohibited in the Netherlands to sell soft drugs to inhabitants not residing in the Netherlands (there has been a binding Guideline by the Public Prosecution Service since 13 December 2012 in the context of the Opium Act). In this case a 'coffee shop' in the city of Maastricht, close to the German and Belgian border, is prosecuted by the Public Prosecutor because it sold soft drugs to various people from outside the Netherlands. The accused states that the prohibition is in conflict with Article 21 of the Charter, which lays down the principle of non-discrimination on the basis of nationality. He also states that the prohibition is in conflict with the EU freedom of services.

Outcome of the case:

The Supreme Court holds that the accused's argument does not hold. The ECJ held in its judgment of 16 December 2010 (C-137/09), Josemans v Mayor of Maastricht, that the prohibition to allow EU citizens not residing in the Netherlands into coffee shops is a measure aimed at considerably limiting drugs tourism and thus reducing problems caused by drugs tourism. It cannot be deemed incoherent if a Member State takes suitable measures to face a massive influx of inhabitants of other Member States who want to benefit from the tolerated sale of products, the sale of which is prohibited in all Member States. The Supreme Court therefore holds that it is possible to prosecute a coffee shop that sells soft drugs to inhabitants from countries other than the Netherlands. It is a suitable measure to reduce problems caused by drugs tourism (public order) and therefore is not in conflict with Art. 21 of the Charter.