Cannabis May Be Banned For Tourists in Amsterdam

Amsterdam's mayor Femke Halsema has once again floated the idea of banning cannabis for non-residents, in an effort to curb cannabis-driven tourism.

Amsterdam is the capital city of the Netherlands, with 872,680 residents living in the city, over 1.3 million in the urban areas and over 2.4 million in metropolitan areas. While some refer to Amsterdam as the "Venice of the North," it is better known to tourists for its euphemistically titled "coffee shops," in which foreigners can purchase and consume cannabis products.

Before coronavirus and the ensuing lockdowns that followed, Amsterdam was receiving over one million tourists every month, many of whom visit purely for the purpose of consuming cannabis.

As such, the city's Mayor Femke Halsema has once again suggested that Amsterdam cease all cannabis-related tourism, allowing only Amsterdam residents to consume the plant.

A 2019 survey of young tourists aged between 18 to 35 revealed that 57% of visitors had decided to travel to Amsterdam primarily because they wanted to go to cannabis cafes and get stoned.

The survey asked respondents "what would happen to the willingness of tourists to visit Amsterdam if either the availability or accessibility of one or more of these factors should reduce or disappear?"

In response, 34% indicated they would visit Amsterdam less frequently if they weren't able to visit coffee shops, and 11% said they would cease visiting entirely.

The results of this survey both affirm Halsema's belief that cannabis drives a large amount of tourism to Amsterdam, while also highlighting the economic benefits that cannabis tourism brings to the Netherlands' capital.

"Coffee shops, especially in the center, largely run on tourists," Halsema said. "The increase in tourism has only increased demand and attracted hard-drug criminality in the process."

"We can be an open, hospitable and tolerant city, but also a city that makes life difficult for criminals and slows down mass tourism," the Mayor said.

Should Amsterdam shut down its coffee shops to tourists, the city will experience a sharp downturn in tourism, which will likely result in the closure of many cannabis-dispensing coffee shops. In light of budgetary struggles faced by most countries amid COVID-19, ceasing cannabis tourism could be a controversial move for Amsterdam.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.