Destinations

Amsterdam may soon ban tourists from its infamous coffee shops

Ali Coulton

Ali Coulton

The days of tourists eating space cakes and bogarting joints in Amsterdam’s infamous coffee shops appear to be numbered, following a proposal from the city’s mayor.

Mayor Femke Halsema has proposed a new policy which would see foreigners banned from entering the city’s 166 coffee shops to make the sector more manageable and reduce criminal activity.

In 2013, national drug laws in the Netherlands were updated so that only locals could enter coffee shops, which are able to sell small amounts of marijuana.

Amsterdam managed to get an exception to this law, but now Halsema is looking to enforce the update.

The city’s mayor said that pre-COVID, the increasing number of cannabis tourists – most of whom are young and low-budget – were becoming a problem for locals.

“Amsterdam is an international city and we wish to attract tourists, but we would like them to come for its richness, its beauty and its cultural institutions,” Halsema said, according to Deutsche Welle.

Coffee shop owner Andre van Houten told The New York Times the soft drugs industry was being blamed for the behaviour of groups often made up of young, British men who fly in on budget airlines and cause a ruckus in the red-light district.

“What is the problem here, drugs, or alcohol?” he said.

A spokesman for the Bond van Cannabis Detaillisten (BCD) told Dutch News that the proposed law will not stop soft-drug tourism.

“People want to smoke their joint. If that can’t happen in a coffee shop, then they will buy it on the street,” he said.

However, the way the Netherlands’ drug laws are written means that it is illegal, beyond personal consumption, to produce, store and distribute marijuana, meaning the only way for vendors to buy large quantities of the drug for resale is through underground criminal enterprises.

The new proposal seeks to reduce the number of coffee shops in the city to 66, but will loosen the laws around buying and storing more stock in return.

The proposal will be presented to council before final proposals are drawn up, but the final decision will fall on the mayor.

Seventeen million tourists flood the city each year, which is 16 times its population. Research shows that a majority of those who visit are attracted by the city’s tolerance towards cannabis.

Halsema floated the idea of eliminating cannabis tourism in March last year as a means to reduce the crowds in the city’s red-light district.

The city banned tour groups from going through its red-light areas over concerns that sex workers were being treated as a tourist attraction.

Amsterdam also introduced a series of fines for “anti-social” behaviour in 2018 to prevent “groups of drunk, puking bachelor parties… from England”.


Featued image source: iStock/InnaFelker

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