The New York Times has published an article about efforts to curb drug abuse in Maastricht by closing the coffeehouses to non-residents – this seems to be my week for drug stories. I got stopped by a carload of kids asking the way to ‘Mississippi’ on Monday evening – I’ve been a resident long enough to know that it’s the drug steamer down by city hall. So I gave them directions, only later wondering why they had chosen to stop me, of all people, to ask the way.
In part, I understand the Time’s point. I’ve seen the tourism downside that the article mentions: cheap-jet flights crammed with kids coming up for a party weekend. It doesn’t look good (and its much worse on Sunday flights home than Friday flights in). And what becomes of the carload of kids after they leave the shop?
The EU-legal issue is going to be a hard one to resolve (although my Dutch friends maintain that the Brussels has been scheming to close the shops down for years)
But, contrary to the alarmist tone of the Times article, I haven’t had much trouble with drug folks in the city. The drunks lurching out of bars and kids zooming on scooters are more of a threat, and I seldom see the down-and-out users except by the train station (where, paradoxically, there are few coffee shops).
Honestly, the shops themselves tend to be clean, tidy places with well-built bouncers at the doors to keep out minors. And mid-mornings, there is a charmingly steady stream of housewives getting together just like it was a Starbucks, everyone leaving with a big smile.
It’s kind of a congenial (smelly) part of the neighborhood – I wouldn’t want to see them disappear.