Buying cannabis in the Dutch city of Maastricht will soon mean having your fingerprints taken, your face scanned and your biometric data recorded.All 15 coffee shops in the southern city are spending about 100,000 euros ($134,000) installing a security system that makes it harder for an under-age cannabis smoker to enter than a terrorist to set foot in Europe, according to Marc Josemans, head of the local coffee shop union.
“We are ashamed for this attack on your privacy”, reads an explanatory leaflet about the system starting in September.
The coffee shops face a continual struggle to prove they are not selling to people under the age of 18 or more than 5 grams of cannabis a day to any one individual.
If they can’t, they risk being shut down.
“If a 17-year-old comes here, shows the ID of his very similar-looking older brother and then gets caught by the police with cannabis bought in our shop, we have to prove that he broke the rules, not us,” said Josemans.
Cannabis is theoretically illegal in the Netherlands but has been tolerated in small amounts since the 1970s.
Customers in Maastricht will have their fingers and face scanned. The scans will be compared with stored data and, if everything matches, they will be able to enter the coffee shop.
No names and addresses are stored and details on the amount of cannabis bought every day will be saved only until midnight.
The information is completely secure, coffee shop owners say. But Josemans concedes 90 percent of his clients don’t like the system and he expects the new measures to hurt sales initially.