Officials in Amsterdam Asked to Stop Cannabis Sales to Tourists

Officials in Amsterdam, under pressure from some groups that want to lower Amsterdam’s appeal as a cannabis tourist destination, are considering enforcing a law that allows cannabis cafes to continue selling marijuana, but only to locals.

Such a move would end Amsterdam’s long-held status as the cannabis capital of the world. Long before recreational cannabis started becoming legal in the U.S. and Canada, cannabis tourists saw Amsterdam as a haven. The coffeehouses there have long been a destination for tourists who want to buy adult-use marijuana legally.

That could all end soon, whether it’s a cannabis tourist sales ban or another European country, such as Germany, drawing cannabis tourists away from Amsterdam.

De Wallen District Becoming a Party Zone

The issue that may lead to Amsterdam banning sales of cannabis to tourists involves human behavior – that is, human tourist behavior that some locals do not like. Amsterdam’s De Wallen district, home to many of the coffeehouses that sell cannabis, also is home to the famous red light district where prostitution is legal, as well as many pubs and nightclubs.

According to locals, tourists have turned the area into a free-for-all. “”We are being confronted with people vomiting, screaming, pissing, pooping,” Arjan Welles, leader of an advocacy group called Stop de Gekte (Stop the Madness), told CBC News in Canada. “This part of the city has only one purpose – to please the tourists.”

Welles’ group hopes to convince officials to improve the situation by enforcing a law that restricts sales of cannabis to Amsterdam residents only. The move would effectively ban legal cannabis sales to tourists.

Change Would Cost Millions for Businesses

There’s a lot at stake for companies that do business in the De Wallen district. A study done by Trouw showed that Amsterdam coffeeshops have a total income of more than 1 billion euros every year. That study also found that the average average coffee shop in the Netherlands has a turnover of around 1.7 million euros per year in hashish and weed.

A recent petition signed by hundreds of supporters failed to convince the Amsterdam city council to change the law, even though it also had the backing of the city mayor and police chief. Council members expressed concern about an explosion in black market weed among tourists if they cannot purchase it legally.

However, Amsterdam coffeeshops already are forced to find black market sources for weed because of a quirk in the law. While people can buy and smoke cannabis in the Netherlands, it’s illegal to grow it. To help address this issue, the government started a four-year program in 2019 that involves licensing 10 growers to exclusively supply the coffeeshops of ten mid-sized municipalities.

With legal cannabis sales coming to Germany in the coming few years, some officials told CBC they hope that will lessen Amsterdam’s appeal to cannabis tourists. In the meantime, Welles’ group will continue to lobby city officials in hopes they make it “far less interesting to come to the Netherlands just for cannabis.”

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