Amsterdam considers the ban on cannabis coffee for tourists

(CNN) – Amsterdam is considering banning its infamous coffee shops from tourists by selling cannabis as the city explores new ways to balance the quality of life of locals with the needs of visitors.

The move follows a recent survey of young tourists commissioned by Mayor Femke Halsema who revealed that more than half said they chose to visit the Dutch capital because they wanted to experiment with cannabis coffee.

The survey examined the most popular reasons for visiting Amsterdam and sought to investigate “what would happen to tourists’ willingness to visit Amsterdam if the availability or accessibility of one or more of these factors were to reduce or disappear”.

About 57% of respondents say coffee shops are an important reason why they came to Amsterdam.

Meanwhile, 34% indicated that they would come to Amsterdam less often if they were unable to visit the coffee shops, and 11% said they would not come at all.

In a letter to the councilors before the survey took place, in July 2019, Halsema suggested that the city’s cafes can put “pressure on the quality of life in the city center under pressure”.

Transforming Amsterdam

The survey, which took place in August 2019, questioned 1,100 international visitors aged between 18 and 35 who visited the red light district of Amsterdam, an area of ​​the city that has become the centerpiece of the latest tourist regulations of Amsterdam.

Beginning April 1, 2020, new measures will be in place to regulate group tours in the area, preventing tour groups from passing the red light windows, on tour beyond 22:00. and linger in “pressure sensitive places”, such as narrow bridges or new entrances.

Any guide found that breaks the rules could be subject to fines of € 190 ($ 205).

The mayor’s investigation questioned visitors whether they would pay an entry fee to visit the areas of Wallen / Singel, the medieval city center that makes up the red light district. Of these, 32% said they would stop coming and 44% said they would visit less often.

Amsterdam wants to curb tourists in its red light district.

Amsterdam wants to curb tourists in its red light district.

Anoek De Groot / AFP / Getty Images

But the mayor’s poll suggests that the city’s coffee shops have a stronger appeal for international tourists than the red light district.

Only 1% of respondents mentioned window prostitution as the main reason for their visit.

Meanwhile, 72% said they visited a bar during their time in Amsterdam.

Tourism control

The streets of Amsterdam can be crowded with a large number of visitors.

The streets of Amsterdam can be crowded with a large number of visitors.

ROBIN UTRECHT / AFP / AFP / Getty Images

Journalist Isabelle Gerretsen grew up in Amsterdam and saw firsthand the impact of mass tourism in the city.

“It is understandable that Amsterdam residents want to preserve their beautiful historic center and also devote themselves to daily life without being constantly confronted by turbulent tourists,” he says CNN Travel.

Trying to limit cannabis use by tourists is “the latest in a series of measures aimed at preserving the status of the city as a cultural center, rather than a theme park for” weed tourists “,” says Gerretsen .

“But of all the measures, it’s the most risky,” he says. “Because Amsterdam is known worldwide for its tolerant drug policy. It could lead to a drop in the number of tourists.”

Different municipalities in the Netherlands have different rules for coffee shops and discussions on the exclusion of everyone except residents are not new.

Today this rule exists in Maastricht in the south of the country.

To add some confusion, buying cannabis from a bar is legal in the Netherlands, but cannabis production remains illegal.

The new Amsterdam survey points out that excluding non-residents from coffee shops does not necessarily translate into a reduction in visitors or a reduction in cannabis use.

Of the visitors surveyed, 29% said they would turn to other routes in search of their drug dose – to convince a resident to buy cannabis for them, or through street trade, for example.

In a recent letter to city councilors listing the survey results, Halsema said the city government should focus on “reducing the attraction of cannabis for tourists” and make the Amsterdam cannabis market more transparent.

City appeal

Cycling in Amsterdam is still high on the list of things to do for tourists in the city.

Cycling in Amsterdam is still high on the list of things to do for tourists in the city.

TIMOTHY CLARY / AFP / AFP / Getty Images

However, the Amsterdam tourist survey suggests that the most common reason to visit Amsterdam is not the cafes, the red light district or even the various museums and cultural attractions – it is actually the rather healthy charm of walking or cycling for the city.

British tourist Allan Claydon, 24, agrees with this interpretation – and claims not to think that curbing coffee shop culture would change Amsterdam’s appeal to visitors.

“I don’t think the cannabis ban would decimate tourism,” he tells CNN Travel. “The city is also known for its culture and its brilliant aesthetic”.

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