Amsterdam city council is to impose a blanket ban on the smoking of marijuana in school playgrounds, and may extend the ban to playgrounds in parks and in residential areas as well, according to media reports on Wednesday.
The ban means schools will be able to involve the police if teenagers are caught smoking on school premises.
While it is up to schools to take initial steps, the police can be brought in to deal with repeat offenders, mayor Eberhard van der Laan told the press.
The government is also planning to raise the age at which teenagers can buy cigarettes to 18, which will further strengthen the position of schools which want to stamp out smoking altogether.
According to the Parool, many of the city’s schools already have a ban on smoking close to the school premises.
‘It is a good initiative but schools must be free to maintain their own rules’, Jolanda Hogewind, head of the Calvijn met Junior College in Slotervaart told the paper. The school banned cigarettes and joints this year. ‘I don’t want to find police officers checking the playground on their own initiative,’ she told the paper.
Earlier efforts to ban marijuana from schools failed when the Council of State said it is not technically possible to ban something which is illegal. Changes in the drugs laws have now made this possible.
Marijuana possession remains a criminal offence in the Netherlands although there is an official policy of ignoring up to five grammes for personal use.
In addition, some 44 of the city’s 220 cannabis cafes – where small amounts of cannabis are sold under licence – will have to close because they are less than 250 metres from a school.
Coupled with earlier plans to shut 26 coffee shops in the red light district, the number of official marijuana outlets in the city will go down by one third.
Mayor Eberhard van de Laan says the new policy is a balance between the advantages brought by coffee shops in terms of social control and a reduction in street dealing, coupled with the nuisance and crime associated with some coffee shops.
The capital will still have more coffee shops than The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht put together, Van der Laan is quoted as saying by the Parool.
Around one third of the seven million tourists who visit Amsterdam every year are said to visit a coffee shop.