Are drugs legal in Amsterdam?

Amsterdam wants to keep tourists out of coffee shops

For decades, Amsterdam was a paradise for stoners from all over the world. Many Germans still like to take a trip across the border to the canal city. Because anyone over the age of 18 can legally buy and smoke hashish or marijuana in the coffee shops. That should now - after more than 50 years - come to an end. At least for tourists. The Dutch capital wants to prohibit foreign tourists from entering coffee shops. This is intended to put a stop to mass tourism and drug crime, the city said.

"We want to stop drug tourism," emphasized Mayor Femke Halsema. "The so-called cannabis tourists are causing major problems in the city." Halsema said: "Amsterdam is an international city and of course we want to attract tourists, but we want them to come because of the diversity, the beauty and the cultural facilities," she said. In a letter to the city council, Halsema wrote that she hoped to make Amsterdam less attractive as a "place of soft drug tourism".

Is the end of many coffee shops in Amsterdam soon?

Fight against the excesses

The green mayor is not in favor of a total ban on drugs, but wants an end to the excesses. In this she is supported by the public prosecutor, police and many citizens. According to the current plan, only residents of the country with a club ID should have access. The number of sales outlets would be drastically reduced. It is still unclear when the ban will come into force. The city parliament still has to approve the project.

The drug cannabis is actually banned in the Netherlands, but possession of less than five grams was decriminalized in 1976 as part of a so-called tolerance policy. Cannabis can be sold in the coffee shops. Over the past 20 years, the number of coffee shops in Amsterdam has fallen sharply from 283 to 166 now. That is still around 30 percent of all coffee shops in the country. The coffee shops are still open during the lockdown, but customers have to take the goods with them.

Drug consumption as a tourist magnet

Almost ten million tourists came to the city with around 700,000 inhabitants in 2019 - before the corona pandemic. Many of them probably just to drink and smoke weed. 57 percent of the visitors to the red light district in the center said in a study that they came mainly for the drugs. "We don't want the tourists who only come here to walk around drunk and stoned," said the mayor.

Because of the corona pandemic, there is currently a yawning emptiness in downtown Amsterdam

The association of coffee shop dealers is strictly against the initiative and warns of negative consequences. “People want to smoke their joint. If that doesn't work in the coffee shop, then buy it on the street, "said spokesman Joachim Helms.

The police are also observing an increase in drug and money laundering crime. Because a paradox still applies: while the sale of hashish is legal, cultivation and wholesale are prohibited. So coffee shops have to get their goods illegally through the back door. The government in The Hague now wants to change that and is about to start a model test with state-controlled cultivation by selected producers.

kle / as (afp, dpa)