Blow to red light tourists: cannabis smoking banned in public
- Published in Soualiga Newsday Focus
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SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Smoking cannabis in public is forbidden in the centre of Amsterdam from Thursday, as part of a raft of measures to restrain party tourism.
In the Burgwallen Oude-Zijde central area, tourists and residents smoking cannabis in public space now risk a €100 fine. On streets such as the Oudezijds Achterburgwal – brimming with prostitution windows, bars, ‘cannabis museums’ and erotic shows – signs now warn tourists of the new ban in English and in Dutch.
With post-Covid visitors hitting an estimated 18 million last year, residents, councillors and Amsterdam’s mayor said the situation in the red light district was out of control. Despite making streets one-way at busy times, mayor Femke Halsema said even emergency vehicles sometimes cannot access the maze of ancient streets in De Wallen.
Councillors protested about “glassy-eyed tourist zombies staggering about”, with many campaigning for tourists to be banned from buying cannabis entirely. A local residents’ group called Stop de Gekte recorded the “madness” by patrolling the streets in high vis jackets telling tourists to behave – until announcing this week that “intimidation and threats” from local business owners had forced them to stop.
The council has now introduced a set of measures, including earlier closing times for brothels and bars, a crackdown on alcohol sales in the red light district, a “stay away” advertising campaign to deter nuisance visitors and now the ban on smoking cannabis in public.
“It’s an important signal,” Lian Heinhuis, head of the local PvdA labour party told Dutch News. “Amsterdam is a city that’s built on freedom, but it’s often misused by people who want to just make money, or want to party. This is not an amusement park.”