Special Travel Circumstances in Netherlands

In recent years, U.S. citizens in the Netherlands have suffered death and injuries stemming from the use of marijuana, hashish, and other substances. Marijuana is a controlled substance in the Netherlands, and possession is a misdemeanor that can result in a fine. Historically, use of illegal substances has been tolerated when bought at licensed “coffee shops.” A new Dutch law, meant to prevent foreigners’ access to “coffee shops” and hence reduce drug tourism, was implemented in three southern provinces beginning in May 2012, and will be implemented nationwide in 2013. The law required the use of a “special pass,” available only to Dutch nationals, to access “coffee shops.” This law was later amended to allow local jurisdictions to develop their own enforcement plans and implementation time lines to prevent foreigner use of “coffee shops.”

”Coffee shops” are a haven for petty criminals who prey on tourists and other individuals under the influence of drugs. Persons who visit “coffee shops” have become victims of pickpocketing, identity theft, sexual assault, and other crimes. Visitors are warned that marijuana sold in the Netherlands may contain higher levels of THC, the active chemical in marijuana, which may exacerbate the drug’s effects and a user’s impairment. The U.S. Surgeon General has issued a warning against marijuana use. “Coffee shops” and other locations are known for selling other illegal substances, such as psychotropic mushrooms; visitors are cautioned against using such drugs, as they are dangerous. It is illegal to take any controlled substance, such as marijuana, into or out of the Netherlands.

The Netherlands instituted a comprehensive indoor smoking ban in July 2008. The ban includes all cafes, pubs, clubs, theatres, coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, airports, shopping malls, amusement centers, etc. Smoking is only allowed in private homes, in the open air, and in designated smoking areas.

Dutch customs authorities stringently enforce regulations concerning importation into the Netherlands of items such as firearms and other controlled materials. Contact the Embassy of the Netherlands in Washington, D.C. or one of the Dutch consulates in Chicago, Miami, San Francisco, or New York for specific information regarding customs requirements. Aerosol self-defense sprays, such as mace or pepper spray, are illegal to own and/or possess in the Netherlands.

You must carry identification at all times in the Netherlands if you are age 14 or older. Accepted forms of identification for U.S. citizens include a U.S. passport or a Dutch residence card issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A copy of a U.S. passport is not sufficient under Dutch law.

Dutch authorities may require U.S. citizens who apply for or obtain Dutch nationality to renounce their U.S. citizenship. For further information, visit the Dutch immigration and naturalization authority website and the U.S. Consulate General website.

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