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Weed it out Amsterdam may ban tourists from famous 'coffee shops'

"Amsterdam is an international city and we wish to attract tourists, but we would like them to come for its richness, its beauty, and its cultural institutions"

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Person smoking a joint (stock photo)

Person smoking a joint (stock photo)

Person smoking a joint (stock photo)

Smoking a joint in one of Amsterdam’s famous Dutch ‘coffee shops’ may become a thing of the past for visitors as the city considers bringing in tough new restrictions.

Long favoured as a destination for "cannabis tourists", Amsterdam’s city burghers now say they don't want them any more as they are becoming a nuisance.

In a letter to the city council, Amsterdam's ecologist mayor Femke Halsema said she hopes to make Amsterdam less attractive as "a place of soft drugs tourism."

"Amsterdam is an international city and we wish to attract tourists, but we would like them to come for its richness, its beauty, and its cultural institutions," she said.

While Amsterdam has previously strongly defended its laws that permit outsiders to enter coffee shops in the region, others like Maastricht in the south of the country do not permit non-Dutch customers in their coffee shops.

Last February, the mayor sought to win political backing for her clean-up of overcrowded red-light areas by revealing that a third of foreign tourists would be less likely to visit the city again if they were barred from buying cannabis in the coffee shops.

Halsema attached the survey results to a letter to councillors announcing her intention to examine how they may reduce the attraction of drug use to tourists.

Before the Covid-19 epidemic intervened, Amsterdam was struggling to cope with the huge numbers visiting the city centre to the point that its attractions are no longer being promoted.

Home to 1.1 million people, the city attracts more than 17 million visitors a year. The municipality is particularly keen to dissuade foreign visitors from taking advantage of gedoogbeleid, ‘policy of tolerance’, towards cannabis.

Cannabis is technically illegal in the Netherlands, but the possession of less than five grammes (0.18 ounces) of the substance was decriminalised in 1976 under a so-called "tolerance" policy.

While production of cannabis remains illegal, the so-called coffee shops are allowed to sell it.

There are 570 of these coffee shops in the country, according to health ministry figures. Amsterdam is home to around 166, or about 30 percent of the total, according to the city's own data.

Coffee shops were closed due to the lockdown, along with other non-essential shops in the Netherlands and they continue to be shut in line with the latest Covid-19 measures.

However, the coffee shops have been able to sustain through delivery and takeout services.

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