Saturday 24 October 2020

Amsterdam to crack down on weed tourism and coffeeshops

A burning issue? Photo: Depositphotos.com

Amsterdam is exploring how to make cannabis less of a tourist attraction and, at the same time, crack down on the illegal supply chain, according to a briefing from mayor Femke Halsema.

The city has published new research by Amsterdam’s statistics service on the extent to which young tourists are motivated to visit the Dutch capital by cannabis, window brothels and budget flights. It found that a large proportion would be less likely to come to Amsterdam if they had to pay to enter the red light district or if only local residents were allowed into cannabis cafes (coffeeshops).

The study – which targeted 1,161 foreign visitors between 18 and 35 – suggested that coffee shops were a major factor in encouraging their trip, with two-thirds visiting them to use cannabis.

This age group, and particularly young men, have previously been identified as the major cause of nuisance in Amsterdam, which is struggling to control the negative effects of 17.4 million overnight visitors a year.

Halsema said in her briefing that the latest survey would be used to investigate policies that could ‘reduce the pulling power of cannabis on tourism’ and crack down on the illegal supply chain that feeds coffee shops – because growing cannabis commercially is illegal.

National rules

Although national laws already mean that any municipality can require visitors to coffee shops to show proof that they live in the Netherlands, this rule is not enforced in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Banning non-residents was suggested by the authors of a report last year which damned Amsterdam’s failure to control drug related criminality.

Sebastiaan Meijer, spokesman for the mayor, told DutchNews.nl said that the city does not have any plans to ban foreign residents from coffee shops but is researching policies that could make them less attractive and reduce tourist nuisance.

‘It’s going to take some time to go to the next steps, and there is no real clear majority [in the city council] for solutions,’ he said.

Nuisance

The survey showed that a third of the tourists questioned said that if they were no longer allowed into coffee shops, they would visit Amsterdam less frequently – and 11% would not come at all.

One third of the British tourists said that coffee shops were their main reason to come to Amsterdam – and they were more likely (42%) to say they would come less frequently if only local residents could buy cannabis.

Just under a third of the interviewees would never enter the red light district area if there were an entry fee – a form of control planned to start in Venice in July – and 44% would come less frequently. For Britons who were prepared to pay, half said they would be motivated by coffee shops in the area.

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