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Mayor of Amsterdam Pushing to Severely Restrict Cannabis Tourism

Is the mayor weighing banning tourists from cannabis cafés?

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William Casey/ Shutterstock

The mayor of Amsterdam is considering putting restrictions on cannabis tourism, citing research that shows a third of visitors would come less often if they were barred from the city’s famed “coffee shops” that sell marijuana. The proposal comes as city leaders struggle to reduce the congestion that has plagued the Wallen and Singel areas, which have a concentration of red-light businesses and cannabis outlets.

The research was commissioned by Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema, who wants to reduce the number of coffee shops in the city. In a survey conducted by the city’s Research, Information, and Statistics Office, researchers determined that 34% of those who come to Wallen and Singel would visit less often if foreigners were banned from coffee shops. The figure was even higher for tourists from the U.K.

“For British visitors, coffee shops by far are the most frequently mentioned main reason to come to Amsterdam (33%),” said the agency. “They cite walking or cycling through the city less often as the main reason (21%) than the average (32%) and, on the contrary, more often indicate that a cheap trip was the main reason (11% compared with 6% on average).”

The survey of visitors to the Wallen and Singel areas aged 18 to 57 also found that 11% would stop visiting Amsterdam altogether if a ban on foreign patronage of coffee shops was put in place. Among visitors of all nationalities, 40% said they would continue to visit the city but would refrain from enjoying cannabis. Halsema attached the results of the survey to a letter to members of the city council, announcing her intention to explore ways to reduce the attraction of using drugs for tourists.

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But banning foreigners from coffee shops wouldn’t end all cannabis tourism. More than one in five (22%) said they would have someone else visit a coffee shop for them while another 18% said they would find another way to acquire pot.

Amsterdam’s mayor also announced a willingness to address the dichotomy in the city’s tolerance of cannabis that permits the operation of coffee shops but forbids cannabis production. The lack of licensed cultivators requires coffee shops to make underground or “back door” purchases of cannabis, which are sometimes supplied by unscrupulous drug gangs.

In her letter to the city council, Halsema said she wanted to see “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.”

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In another effort to reduce congestion in Amsterdam’s most popular tourist destinations, city hall announced on Thursday that tour groups would be limited to 15 people and would be banned from Wallen’s red-light district and other areas with sex workers’ windows. Victor Everhardt, the city’s deputy mayor for economic affairs, said it is “disrespectful to treat sex workers as a tourist attraction.”

A.J. Herrington
Written By

A.J. Herrington is a San Diego-based writer and photographer covering cannabis and the environment.



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    February 15, 2020 at 4:43 pm

    The Pot is the only reason to go to Amsterdam, everything is expensive and the Dutch have only tolerated pot not really liked it. They are control freaks and this measure will fail because it will lose money.

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    Highway 69

    February 15, 2020 at 4:43 pm

    I went inside several coffee shops while in Amsterdam mostly out of curiosity. I wanted to see their menus and prices, the atmosphere, etc. While the prices were fair, I did not purchase or stay long at any of them. The reasons were that you had to smoke what you bought inside (no take-outs) and the cigarette smoking overwhelmed me!

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    February 15, 2020 at 4:48 pm

    If they want to turn away cannabis tourists and the business they bring, they are welcome to visit the USA and Canada. Las Vegas, Toronto and LA could become the new destinations, and Amsterdam can choose to lose 1/3 of their revenue because of anti-cannabis bigotry. San Diego not only has great cannabis, but also has beaches, a warm climate, and friendly people, unlike Amsterdam. We’ll welcome folks from the UK who want to try some of the best cannabis in the world, right here in the States. Better yet, you won’t have to go to a “red light district”, there are shops all over the city! No judgments or second-class treatment, just enjoy yourself and spark one up, or have an edible, in some cases, right on the beach!

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      Highway 69

      February 15, 2020 at 5:15 pm

      Hear! Hear!
      Flower to the people!! ✊

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    Jeff Williams

    February 18, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    I am surprised that pot tourism hasn’t dropped significantly in Amsterdam since it is legal in so many states. I have never known anyone who went to Amsterdam for any reason other than pot.

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      Ginny Sprague

      February 21, 2020 at 1:04 pm


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        Darren Liu

        February 21, 2020 at 2:29 pm


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        Jeff Williams

        February 24, 2020 at 10:48 am

        Oh yeah, I forgot about them.

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    February 19, 2020 at 12:55 pm

    *Laughs in Canadian*

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      Darren Liu

      February 21, 2020 at 2:29 pm


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    February 20, 2020 at 2:35 pm

    If they are so concerned about congestion, maybe they should decentralize the locations of coffee shops and allow the whole nation to profit from cannabis. Instead they think only to restrict and control. Fools!

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    February 20, 2020 at 8:40 pm

    Damn.. the retardation is… wow… well okay then idiots lol. Fail your economy due to idiocy and hatred. Bye bitches 😂

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      Darren Liu

      February 21, 2020 at 2:29 pm


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    Ginny Sprague

    February 21, 2020 at 1:04 pm

    Amsterdam is going to shoot themselves in the foot if they discourage coffee shops selling herb. Sure, they have a ‘red light’ district, but does that attract a more preferable clientele than cannabis users?

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    Ronald Akridge

    February 28, 2020 at 3:21 am

    Well, they should do something or compromise, at least. The economic status will be greatly impaired, and the stability growth will also decrease. BIG TIME! (if they pushed through the banning act).

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