Dutch Health Minister Says Marijuana Is Exempt From July 1 Smoking Ban

AMSTERDAM (Thomson Financial) - Dutch health minister Ab Klink said visitors to coffee shops will be free to smoke marijuana as long as it is not mixed with tobacco, after a smoking ban affecting all restaurants and bars goes into effect on July 1.

The minister was replying to questions tabled by parliamentary colleagues on whether coffee shops will become completely smoke free when the ban goes into effect.

Current tobacco laws in the Netherlands do not cover the smoking of pure marijuana or cannabis in coffee shops, he said.

Coffee shops also will be allowed to set up separate smoking areas for customers who want to smoke marijuana and tobacco, although staff will not be allowed to serve or do other work inside those areas.

Minister Klink said he would look into the ban's effect on coffee shops at the end of 2008 or beginning of 2009, including what percentage of coffee shops have opened a separate smoking area.

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