Gone are the days when you could fly down to Amsterdam for a happy high as the city’s mayor is considering a crackdown on weed tourism and cannabis cafés. By Bayar Jain
Amongst the many things Amsterdam is famous for, perhaps the presence and relatively easy access to cannabis within the city is one of them. Tourists from over the world fly down to Netherlands’ capital to visit cannabis-vending coffee shop and smoke up, or chew on an edible. While great for tourists, it tends to become a hurdle for locals of the region. Due to this, the mayor of Amsterdam, Femke Halsema, has revealed that a crackdown on cannabis sale is underway, particularly on sale to the travellers. Over tourism and insensitivity to local customs and laws has been a hurdle which the Dutch city has been trying to overcome since 2011. Currently, sale of marijuana is legal only at registered coffee shops and dispensaries. This relaxation of weed sale first came into effect in the 1970s and has played a massive role in tempting travellers to the region.
This move of curbing cannabis sales follows the results of a survey which revealed that over half of the young tourists surveyed – as much as 57 per cent – chose to visit the city purely to go to a cannabis café. 34 per cent indicated they’d come to Amsterdam less often if they weren’t able to visit coffee shops, while 11 per cent said they wouldn’t come at all. Conducted by the Dutch Office for Research, Information and Statistics, the poll also aimed at understanding how many people are drawn to the city for its relaxed marijuana rules, legality of prostitution, and cheap flights. The survey also questioned if tourists would be willing to pay an entry fee to visit the De Wallen area – the part of the city which houses the famous Red Light District. Of these, 32 per cent said they would stop visiting and 44 per cent revealed they would visit less often. The poll, which took place in August 2019, surveyed 1,100 international visitors between the ages of 18 and 35.
New measures to regulate group tours to the Red Light District are expected to kick in starting April 1, 2020. With this new regulation, tour groups will be prevented from passing the red light windows, touring past 10 at night, and lingering in “places that are sensitive to pressure” – such as narrow bridges, or new entryways. Any guide found to be breaking this rule will be fined EUR 190 (approximately INR 14,680).