Amsterdam is cleaning up its image. Already the city has banned new shops aimed at tourists from opening in its historic centre – and it has also started clamping down on Airbnb in certain districts. Now, in an effort both to reduce mass tourism and to combat organised crime, the Dutch capital will ban foreign visitors from its cannabis-peddling coffeeshops following the return of travel to the Netherlands.
The city’s mayor, Femke Halsema, has put forward a plan to allow only Dutch residents to enter Amsterdam’s 166 coffeeshops: establishments where you often can’t get an espresso but you can always buy small amounts of cannabis, absolutely legally.
In a statement, the mayor said: ‘Amsterdam is an international city and we wish to attract tourists, but for its richness, beauty and cultural institutions.’ The ban would start in 2022.
While the city will remain ‘open, hospitable and tolerant’, said Halsema, the city wants to rid itself of its image as Europe’s ‘weed capital’ and reduce low-budget tourism, full stop. According to Dutch government research, more than half of the 20 million travellers who come to Amsterdam in a normal year are there primarily to get blazed.
There are already similar bans in cities such as Maastricht and ’s-Hertogenbosch, which once attracted hundreds of thousands of marijuana-smoking visitors from Belgium, Germany and France. The Amsterdam ban will now go through a period of consultation and transition, after which the city also plans to introduce a new scheme for ‘approved cannabis vendors’.
For pot smokers across Europe, it may be very bad news indeed. For everyone else, the streets may begin to smell a lot more like any other city (and feature fewer staggering groups of bleary-eyed stag parties).
Then again, as the Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk, the quaint canals of Jordaan and the cutting-edge nightlife of Noord, and excessive amounts of appeltaart and stroopwafel will quickly remind any visitor: there’s plenty more to the ’dam than sweet Mary Jane.