Since it opened in 1967, Amsterdam’s iconic coffeeshop, Mellow Yellow, has been an institution, not just with locals and tourists but also as a host to the thousands of visitors who came to HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cups over the years. Sadly the world’s first coffeeshop, a welcome place and a bastion of peace and inclusivity, closed its doors on New Year’s Day.
“I serve thousands of people every day; tourists and locals. I have Israelis and Palestinians in here smoking together. Even people who don’t smoke come here to have their photo taken. It’s part of the history of Amsterdam,” Johnny Petram told the the Telegraph.
Along with another 27 other coffeeshops in Amsterdam, Mellow Yellow has fallen victim to government-proposed legislation to shut down all coffeeshops within 250 meters (820 feet) of a school, even though the mayor’s office admitted that closing coffee shops will probably not stop young people from smoking weed.
So why are so many coffeeshops being shuttered in Amsterdam?
The problem started when the national government decided it no longer wanted non-Dutch nationals flocking to their country to get high and buy drugs. In 2012, the government instituted the so-called Weed Pass.
The Weed Pass, which has been functioning outside Amsterdam, is a form of ID that only Dutch nationals can hold in order to buy weed and smoke in coffeeshops. However the law is not enforced in Amsterdam, home to some 200 coffee shops.
Amsterdam rejected the Weed Pass, arguing that it would lead to an explosion in black market street dealing and would be lousy for tourism.
In an effort to avoid the Weed Pass, local authorities agreed they would not allow coffeeshops to function within 250 meters of a school.
“If we don’t strike a deal, we would be forced to enforce the Weed Pass and then we will have big problems,” said Jasper Karman, the mayor’s spokesperson, reported the Telegraph. “In this way, we can protect the remaining 167 coffee shops in Amsterdam.”
However, many fear for the future of Amsterdam’s coffeeshops in general.
The city has lost roughly half of its coffeeshops in the last two decades, and some fear it could get worse if the Netherlands elects a conservative government when it goes to the polls later this year.
Ulterior motives? Yes, gentrification.
“The council wants to increase the quality of the city center, but only for rich people,” said August de Loor, a government advisor and founder of the Bond Van Cannabis Detaillisten (BCD) union for coffeeshop owners.
“I’m all for increasing the quality of the city center, but not by kicking out coffeeshops,” de Loor said.
Meanwhile, Johnny Petram, valiantly fought City Hall for Mellow Yellow, arguing that it was near a cosmetology school where students were over 18 and legally entitled to smoke. Petram lost his case but says he’ll try to re-open Mellow Yellow in another location.
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