Smoking cannabis in public will be banned in Amsterdam’s red light district from mid-May, as part of a set of policies to reduce nuisance for residents.
Rules will be toughened up on the sale of alcohol, and closing times for bars and brothels will be brought forward ‘to give residents more peace late at night,’ the city said in a press release.
The policy was announced on Thursday evening, after increasingly desperate complaints about problems caused by some tourists following the end of pandemic restrictions. Last year, some 18 million tourists returned to Amsterdam.
City executive Sofyan Mbarki, who has special responsibility for the inner city, announced a series of strong measures in November to improve the balance between tourism and city life. A ‘stay away’ campaign aimed at people whose only aim is to have what councillors have called a ‘holiday from their morals’ will be launched this spring.
Last year, despairing locals took matters into their own hands with a ‘Wallen watch’ patrolling the streets to remind tourists of their manners, and campaign group ‘Stop de Gekte’ [stop the madness] campaigned repeatedly for council action.
‘The atmosphere becomes dire, particularly at night,’ said a city spokeswoman in a press release. ‘A lot of people are under the influence [of drugs and alcohol] and hang around for a long time. This comes at the expense of a good night’s sleep for residents and the liveability and safety of the whole neighbourhood.’
There is already a ban on drinking alcohol in public and measures against drug dealers on the streets. Alcohol sales are also forbidden from Thursday night to Sunday in local shops and non-licensed establishments, but from May they will also have to remove alcohol from display or cover it up.
Smoking cannabis will be forbidden in public in the inner city, and the city will investigate if it can ban take-away cannabis sales between 4pm and 1am from Thursday to Sunday nights. If nuisance does not reduce, it may look at forbidding smoking in coffee shops’ outside space too.
The measures will enter a four-week consultation period before a council vote, and all parties agree that action needs to be taken.
Glassy-eyed tourist zombies
From the start of April, restaurants, bars and sex shows will have to shut at 2am and brothels at 3am instead of 6am. From 1am, no more people will be allowed in to establishments where alcohol is served, and bar outdoor terraces will shut at this time too during the summer months.
Diederik Boomsma, leader of the local Christian Democrats, has long advocated for more restrictions on cannabis smoking. ‘Finally!’ he told Dutch News.
‘We have been proposing to ban smoking cannabis in public spaces for years. Some days you can’t even walk around the centre without breathing in the persistent stench of cannabis fumes, with glassy-eyed tourist zombies staggering about. That has to stop.
‘Amsterdam needs to finally get rid of its image as a Walhalla for paid sex and drugs. [Our] message to tourists: “Welcome! But if you’re coming just to snort, swallow or smoke drugs: don’t”.’
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