If you put off that trip to Amsterdam over the years thinking you’d visit the city’s cannabis coffee shops someday, you might want to make “someday” fairly soon (after the pandemic is under control, of course).
In a strange turn given the acceptance of cannabis in so many places around the world, the mayor of Amsterdam wants to limit the number of people from outside the country who can visit the city’s cannabis coffee shops.
It’s not that she opposes legalized marijuana. It’s more that she opposes some of the challenges that tourists have brought to the city. It’s strange to think that people can now travel to Colorado as marijuana tourists but, if the law passes, not to Amsterdam.
However, Mayor Femke Halsema said she has little choice. “The cannabis market is too big and overheated,” Mayor Halsema told Bloomberg . “I want to shrink the cannabis market and make it manageable. The residence condition is far-reaching, but I see no alternative.”
What the Change Means For Tourists
The “residence condition” mentioned by Halsema refers to her proposal to allow only the Dutch to visit the marijuana shops in their own country. The change would certainly eliminate many of the city’s cannabis coffee shops. A government study said only about 68 shops are needed to serve the city’s residents. There are currently 166 shops.
The move is part of an ongoing trend in which Amsterdam is seeking to slow the flow of cannabis tourists into the city. Before the pandemic, cheaper flights in Europe led to more people flying to the city. Amsterdam drew about 1 million people per year, according to Bloomberg. That’s more than the 821,752 who call the city home.
“Amsterdam is an international city and we wish to attract tourists, but we would like them to come for its richness, its beauty and its cultural institutions,” Halsema said, according to France 24.
Halsema submitted the plan to the Amsterdam council in the first full week of January. Most experts think there will be plenty of rounds of debate. That’s good news for cannabis tourists who want to visit Amsterdam. Even Halsema doesn’t think the new law would go into effect until 2022 at the earliest.
Amsterdam’s Long History With Cannabis
Amsterdam has long had the reputation of being a place where you could buy and consume cannabis. Interestingly, according to France 24, cannabis is technically illegal in the Netherlands. However, authorities decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis in 1976. And while production of cannabis is not allowed, the cannabis coffee shops can sell it.
That’s led to the huge influx of cannabis tourists over the years. But some leaders in the city have wanted to change the reputation of the city in recent years. That reputation includes many cannabis coffee shops as well as the red light district where prostitution is legal.
However, Germany’s Deutsche Welle news reported that studies have shown that officials can expect tourism to decline sharply if they ban foreigners from coffee shops. Most expect the debate on the issue will be strong on both sides in the coming months.