Amsterdam cannabis ban: cannabis-smoking banned from city’s red light district - what are the new rules?

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Amsterdam is world famous for its cannabis culture, but new rules are clamping down on its use in the famous red light district

It may be famed for its cannabis culture, but rules around the use of the recreational drug are changing in Amsterdam.

City councillors have voted to ban the smoking of cannabis in the city’s famous red light district De Wallen. The Dutch capital has been a hotspot for stag doos in Europe for many years, but the influx of tourists and antisocial behaviour has brought around the change in policy.

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Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool has labelled the new restrictions as a “historic” change. The outlet added that the city had a reputation as the place “where everything was possible and everything was permissible – including smoking weed on the street”.

It is understood Amsterdam is grappling with an ‘overtourism’ issue. The relatively small city continues to welcome around 18 million visitors per year. However, there are hopes the new restrictions will help to crack down on those travelling to the city to take advantage of the relaxed rules on drug and alcohol use.

What are the new laws around cannabis and alcohol in Amsterdam?

New laws passed by councillors in the city will prohibit the smoking of cannabis in the streets of the red light district. There are also new curfews in the area.

Sex workers will be forced to close their premises at 3am. On Fridays and Saturdays, restaurants and bars will have a curfew of 2am and no new people allowed into the area after 1am.

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New cannabis and alcohol rules will be introduced in Amsterdam’s red light district to curb anti-social behaviour. (Credit: Getty Images)New cannabis and alcohol rules will be introduced in Amsterdam’s red light district to curb anti-social behaviour. (Credit: Getty Images)
New cannabis and alcohol rules will be introduced in Amsterdam’s red light district to curb anti-social behaviour. (Credit: Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

Additionally, alcohol will be removed from shopfronts. This includes in the windows of shops, liquor stores and cafes, with these premises already only able to sell alcohol before 4pm from Thursdays to Sundays.

The new rules are set to be introduced from mid-May. The local authority has also warned that further restrictions, such as the pick-up of soft drugs in premises may come into effect eventually.

Why are there new rules around cannabis in Amsterdam?

The new restrictions come as local councillors attempt to clamp down on anti-social behaviour of tourists visiting the city. Residents living near the red light district have complained about an increase in nuisance behaviour.

A statement from the Amsterdam Local Authority said: “Residents of the old town suffer a lot from mass tourism and alcohol and drug abuse in the streets. Tourists also attract street dealers who in turn cause crime and insecurity. The atmosphere can get grim especially at night.

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“People who are under the influence hang around for a long time. Residents cannot sleep well and the neighbourhood becomes unsafe and unlivable.”

Can tourists buy cannabis in Amsterdam?

Currently, the possession, production or dealing of drugs - including cannabis - is actually illegal in the Netherlands. However, there is a blanket ‘toleration policy’.This policy allows the restricted sale of cannabis in coffee shops. Coffee shops must not cause a nuisance with the sale of the drug.

Foreign visitors to Amsterdam are currently able to legally enter a coffee shop and purchase cannabis. However, there is a stipulation from the government that establishments should not try to attract tourists.

Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema has spoken publicly about her desire to ban tourists from coffee shops in the future. Likewise, the city is currently investigating whether to ban stag or hen parties from visiting for this purpose.

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