Amsterdam mulls ban on tourists buying marijuana

Europe’s marijuana capital could ban tourists from buying pot at its famed coffee shops soon in an effort to tackle overcrowding in the city. 

Although illegal in the Netherlands, soft drugs are widely available in the country. The first coffee shops, where the sale of marijuana for personal use is tolerated, opened in 1972. 

Now the mayor of Amsterdam, Femke Halsema, is cracking down on mass tourism in the city, which saw 19 million visitors in 2018. With a population of 850,000, the pressure to reduce overtourism in Amsterdam has been mounting. 

Halsema commissioned a survey to understand how many people are visiting Amsterdam exclusively for its coffee shops.

The study conducted by the Research, Information and Statistics Department revealed a staggering 34% of tourists would visit the city less often if they were denied access to Amsterdam’s pot cafes, where people can buy up to 5 grams of cannabis.

A further 11% of respondents said they wouldn’t travel to Amsterdam again if such a ban was instated.   

According to the survey, almost half of British visitors would travel less often to Amsterdam, while 12% stated they would never return.

“For British visitors, coffee shops are by far the most frequently mentioned main reason to come to Amsterdam (33 per cent),” the study concluded. 

In addition to overcrowding, another major issue is the so-called back door policy of supplying cannabis shops. 

Although Amsterdam’s coffee shops are allowed to sell weed, the production of cannabis is illegal, which created a paradox in which the marijuana sold in coffee shops is actually unregulated. 

Mayor Halsema said she wanted “a study this year to reduce the attraction of cannabis to tourists and the 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.”

Amsterdam wouldn’t be the first city to implement a ban on tourists buying weed.

The city of Maastricht, in the southeast of the Netherlands, banned tourists from purchasing weed in its coffee shops amid growing concerns over drug tourism from neighboring countries. In order to buy pot in Maastricht, you must submit proof of residence. 

Other efforts to bring down the number of tourists in Amsterdam include a ban on guided tours of the city’s famous red-light district.

Starting this April, tour guides offering visits to the red light district known as De Wallen will be fined €190 and could have their license revoked. 


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