If you’re planning a trip to Amsterdam any time soon and plan to hit up one of the city’s cannabis cafes, it’s possible that the possible days to do so are numbered.
Amsterdam’s mayor, Flemke Halsema, put forward a proposal that would impose a tourist ban for cannabis cafes following years of antisocial behavior from tourists. Visiting Amsterdam, you will likely see one of the city’s numerous 166 cannabis cafes, though Halsema, an ecologist, says she would rather tourists come to Amsterdam for the right reasons.
“We would like them to come for its richness, its beauty and its cultural institution. The problem is: there are just too many of them. The drug tourists are the reason for an increase in demand for marijuana,” she told Schengen Visa Info.
The expectation, should the ban pass, is that it will attract a “wholesome set of travelers,” since those who are coming to enjoy the cannabis cafes are often not focused on the abundance of other attractions in the city.
One local told Deutsche Welle that he was in his bed and saw someone who sat down and puked into the window. He echoed the point of the mayor, saying that tourists disrespect the neighborhoods and everyday citizens of Amsterdam.
It’s not a new idea: Halsema had discussed the idea last year, even though banning tourists would result in one-third ceasing visits to the country entirely.
Many in the industry are concerned about how banning tourists would affect their businesses. Eve Mcguire works at Coffeeshop Reefer and says, without tourists, a large chunk of the cage’s revenue would vanish.
“If they were to ban the tourists, 80 percent of our customers would be gone,” Mcguire told DW. “And not only this, but Dutch people don’t chill in coffee shops. If you’re Dutch, you buy your weed and you go home. The people that chill in coffee shops are tourists.”
Another industry professional, Amsterdam Cannabis Museum Manager Gary Gallagher, told DW that the pandemic is also still affecting business, with only about half of the cash flow now compared to the pre-pandemic numbers. He doesn’t believe that the ban will come into effect due to the profound impact it would have on businesses.
Even if officials pushed the ban through, Gallagher and other critics argued that it would just push the cannabis industry underground.
“I think they can change the rules and not the culture. Amsterdam will have this reputation forever,” he said. “When they closed the coffee shops for [the] corona[virus pandemic], there were drug dealers on every street corner. So a few days later they reversed the move.”
Mcguire also noted that she believes there is a slim chance the ban will pass, saying that it’s “totally a lie” and that “they will never ever let that come to pass.”
She brings up an additional concern, that enforcing a law could be challenging, given the amount of non-Dutch European Union residents working in the city.
“People would have to show residency, but you don’t need residency to work here if you’re within the European Union,” Mcguire said.
It’s not the only measure officials have made to facilitate Amsterdam’s tourism. Halsema also announced a plan to move sex workers fro the De Wallen red light district, away from the windows and to a central building more on the city’s outskirts. They also added more limitations for those wanting to rent flats out on AirBnb in Amsterdam.
While officials believe banning tourists from cannabis cafes would help reshape the tourism industry and city’s image, Gallagher believed that they should focus on policing the central districts more heavily.
“They could have more of a police presence in the red-light district. They were just turning a blind eye, but now there’s a chance for them, if they want to clamp down on it,” he said. “If they want to cut down on the rowdy U.K. bachelor parties, we’re all in favor of that, but stopping people from spending money, especially now, I don’t think that’s very smart.”