Amsterdam Will Restrict Cannabis Tourism

Mayor Femke Halsema is seeking political support to stop foreigners visiting to get high, after a survey revealed that 34 per cent of tourists and 42 per cent of Britons would choose not to visit the Singel area if the drug was not available in coffee shops. 

The city has published new research by Amsterdam’s statistics service on the extent to which young tourists are motivated to visit the Dutch capital by cannabis, window brothels and budget flights. It found that a large proportion would be less likely to come to Amsterdam if they had to pay to enter the red light district or if only local residents were allowed into cannabis cafes (coffeeshops). The study – which targeted 1,161 foreign visitors between 18 and 35 – suggested that coffee shops were a major factor in encouraging their trip, with two-thirds visiting them to use cannabis. This age group, and particularly young men, have previously been identified as the major cause of nuisance in Amsterdam, which is struggling to control the negative effects of 17.4 million overnight visitors a year.

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Halsema said in her briefing that the latest survey would be used to investigate policies that could ‘reduce the pulling power of cannabis on tourism’ and crack down on the illegal supply chain that feeds coffee shops – because growing cannabis commercially is illegal.

The coalition of parties forming the city’s new government wants to follow the examples of Barcelona and Venice, where the flood of unruly tourism has made life extremely unpleasant for residents, forcing officials to try to control the number of visitors and their behavior.

Although national laws already mean that any municipality can require visitors to coffee shops to show proof that they live in the Netherlands, this rule is not enforced in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Banning non-residents was suggested by the authors of a report last year which damned Amsterdam’s failure to control drug related criminality.


Sebastiaan Meijer, spokesman for the mayor, told said that the city does not have any plans to ban foreign residents from coffee shops but is researching policies that could make them less attractive and reduce tourist nuisance.

‘It’s going to take some time to go to the next steps, and there is no real clear majority [in the city council] for solutions,’ he said.

While licensed coffee shops are allowed to sell cannabis from their premises, production of the drug is illegal. The result is that the coffee shops often deal at the “back door” with organised crime gangs.

In her letter, the mayor said she wanted “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.”

Separately on Thursday, Amsterdam city hall said group tours of the main Wallen red-light district and other areas of the capital containing sex workers’ windows would be formally banned from 1 April, while guided tours elsewhere in the centre would require a permit.

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Victor Everhardt, deputy mayor for economic affairs, said red-light district tours had been outlawed because it was “disrespectful to treat sex workers as a tourist attraction”. Other tours must “adhere to new, stricter rules to prevent disruption for residents and businesses”.

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The city council also voted to restrict the size of licensed tours to 15 people and bar them from stopping in busy places such as on narrow bridges, in front of homes, and at the entrances to shops and restaurants during opening hours. Guides who break the rules will be fined €190.

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