The mayor of Amsterdam is considering putting restrictions on cannabis tourism, citing research that shows a third of visitors would come less often if they were barred from the city’s famed “coffee shops” that sell marijuana. The proposal comes as city leaders struggle to reduce the congestion that has plagued the Wallen and Singel areas, which have a concentration of red-light businesses and cannabis outlets.
The research was commissioned by Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema, who wants to reduce the number of coffee shops in the city. In a survey conducted by the city’s Research, Information, and Statistics Office, researchers determined that 34% of those who come to Wallen and Singel would visit less often if foreigners were banned from coffee shops. The figure was even higher for tourists from the U.K.
“For British visitors, coffee shops by far are the most frequently mentioned main reason to come to Amsterdam (33%),” said the agency. “They cite walking or cycling through the city less often as the main reason (21%) than the average (32%) and, on the contrary, more often indicate that a cheap trip was the main reason (11% compared with 6% on average).”
The survey of visitors to the Wallen and Singel areas aged 18 to 57 also found that 11% would stop visiting Amsterdam altogether if a ban on foreign patronage of coffee shops was put in place. Among visitors of all nationalities, 40% said they would continue to visit the city but would refrain from enjoying cannabis. Halsema attached the results of the survey to a letter to members of the city council, announcing her intention to explore ways to reduce the attraction of using drugs for tourists.
Will a Ban on Cannabis for Tourists Work?
But banning foreigners from coffee shops wouldn’t end all cannabis tourism. More than one in five (22%) said they would have someone else visit a coffee shop for them while another 18% said they would find another way to acquire pot.
Amsterdam’s mayo also announced a willingness to address the dichotomy in the city’s tolerance of cannabis that permits the operation of coffee shops but forbids cannabis production. The lack of licensed cultivators requires coffee shops to make underground or “back door” purchases of cannabis, which are sometimes supplied by unscrupulous drug gangs.
In her letter to the city council, Halsema said she wanted to see “a study this year to reduce the attraction of cannabis to tourists and the (local) 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.”
In another effort to reduce congestion in Amsterdam’s most popular tourist destinations, city hall announced on Thursday that tour groups would be limited to 15 people and would be banned from Wallen’s red-light district and other areas with sex workers’ windows. Victor Everhardt, the city’s deputy mayor for economic affairs, said it is “disrespectful to treat sex workers as a tourist attraction.”