The Independent

Amsterdam could ban tourists from buying cannabis

The Independent

Amsterdam could ban tourists from buying cannabis under strict new rules aimed at cleaning up the Dutch city’s overcrowded red light district.

Femke Halsema, the mayor of Amsterdam, is understood to be investigating measures to deter tourists from overcrowding the canal-side streets of the city’s historic heart, which includes the red light district.

She commissioned a study looking at how many people are drawn to Amsterdam because of coffee shops selling marijuana, the city’s legal prostitution zone, and by budget flights.

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The survey, by the Research, Information and Statistics Department, revealed 34 per cent of people would visit the city less often and 11 per cent would never go again if they were barred from entering its coffee shops.

Almost half (42 per cent) of Britons said they would visit less frequently, and 12 per cent claimed they would never return.

Shape Created with Sketch. A look back at Amsterdam’s ’90s red light district – In pictures

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Shape Created with Sketch. A look back at Amsterdam’s ’90s red light district – In pictures

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Of the tourists who would keep coming, 40 per cent said they would refrain from using cannabis.

Those who would continue to use the drug said they would find another way to buy it, including letting someone else go into the coffee shop (22 per cent).

Walking and cycling through the city was the most frequently mentioned main reason people said they visit the city (32 per cent), while coffee shops were cited by 22 per cent as the main reason.

Guided tours featuring sex workers’ windows in Amsterdam’s red light district’s have been banned. (iStock/Getty)

However, the study said: “For British visitors, coffee shops are by far the most frequently mentioned main reason to come to Amsterdam (33 per cent). 

“They cite walking or cycling through the city less often as the main reason (21 per cent) and more often indicate cheap travel as the main reason (11 per cent compared to six per cent on average).”

The city’s government has also announced a ban on guided tours of the red light district in a bid to tackle over-tourism and to clean up and protect workers in the red light district, which is a magnet for rowdy visitors.

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Sex workers are regularly abused and photographed without their consent by members of tour groups, the city said.

Victor Everhardt, Amsterdam deputy mayor, said in a statement: “It is disrespectful to treat sex workers as a tourist attraction.”

Tours of the red light district will only be allowed if guides stick to the new restriction, which comes into effect in April, and keep the windows off their itineraries.

Some 115 guided tours pass through the district every day. 

The city said research has shown that the high number of visitors inconveniences more than half of the residents and businesses in the area.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

February 14, 2020 at 05:39PM Chiara Giordano

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