By Daniel Boffey / The Guardian

For campaigners advocating drug liberalisation, it is an image that is almost too good to be true: a store down a cobbled street in Utrecht legally selling ecstasy, or MDMA, for recreational use, apparently as easily as the jeweller is selling watches next door.

The XTC shop in the centre of the Netherlands’ fourth-largest city has even been visited in recent days by a government minister, who was pictured examining its bubblegum-style vending machines and in-house educational videos.

Unfortunately for drug reformers, however, the “shop” is not – yet – the result of the extension of the famous Dutch gedoogbeleid (tolerance policy) on cannabis use and sale.

The health minister, Ernst Kuipers, was instead visiting a mock-up of how an ecstasy retailer might look from the outside – with three models inside of how the drug might be sold in practice depending on the level of state regulation.

In response to the deepening environmental and societal damage being reaped by the illicit trade and use of drugs in the Netherlands, Kuipers’ D66 party, one of four in the governing coalition, is in favour of examining the regulation of currently prohibited drugs such as cocaine, MDMA, psilocybin mushrooms and LSD.