Amsterdam Could Soon Ban Tourists from Cannabis Cafes

The move to ban tourists from cannabis cafes could have more to do with the red-light district than cannabis itself. 

People visit a coffee shop in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Coffeeshops legally sell marijuana for personal consumption. Source: iStock

The city-wide ban would prevent tourists from being able to buy cannabis at local coffee shops.

This is following the recent release of survey results demonstrating that the majority of visitors surveyed cited cannabis cafes as their primary reason for visiting Amsterdam. 

The survey by the Dutch Office for Research, Information and Statistics was requested by progressive Mayor Femke Halsema. 

Over 1,100 international visitors to the city between the ages of 18 and 35 took part in the poll. 

The results of the study showed that over half (57%) of those surveyed indicated that they were in Amsterdam exclusively to visit a cannabis coffee shop. 

Moreover, according to the poll results, if tourists were banned from buying cannabis, at least a third of respondents would be less likely to visit the city.

The first female mayor of Amsterdam, Mayor Halsema campaigned on a left-wing Green party platform. 

Since entering office, Mayor Halsema has pledged to reduce “the pulling power of cannabis on tourism.”

Mayor Halsema wrote in a letter to the city council, calling for “a study this year to reduce the attraction of cannabis to tourists and the (local) regulation of the back door…A clear separation of markets between hard drugs and soft drugs has great urgency because of the hardening of the trade in hard drugs.”

The Mayor’s comments are in reference to the illegal drug trade that has continued to run rampant in Amsterdam despite broad legalization. 

Although cannabis café sales are legal in the Netherlands, residents are prohibited by law from growing or producing cannabis, creating a need filled by the black market, often dominated by local gangs. 

Amsterdam native and journalist, Isabelle Gerretsen, said to CNN Travel, “It is understandable that Amsterdam residents want to preserve their beautiful historic center, and also go about their daily lives without constantly being confronted by rowdy tourists.”

The move to ban tourists from cannabis cafes could have more to do with the red-light district than cannabis itself. 

According to Mayor Halsema, “Too often now we see vulnerable foreign women behind windows being booed by hordes of drunken tourists. Our city is one of the oldest in Europe with an enormous culture [and] historical significance, which is obviously deteriorating. We would like tourists to see the cultural value.”

In response to complaints by sex workers regarding the negative impact of tourism, Mayor Halsema has taken a firm stance, banning tour busses from driving through the red-light district. 

In an interview last month, Halsema told The Guardian, “I am a progressive, a liberal. When I was a member of parliament ages ago, I was partly responsible for acknowledging prostitution as a legal profession in Holland. And I am still in favour of accepting prostitution as a legal profession because I think the only way we can go to emancipate sex workers is to acknowledge that there is a market, there is supply and demand…But if you look at the actual situation in the red-light district, most women working there are foreign, in a very vulnerable legal status.”

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