Amsterdam​ May Ban Tourists From Cannabis-Friendly Coffee Shops

Published on February 18, 2020

Amsterdam is famous for many, many things. Including cannabis-vending coffee shops. Visitors from all over make time to visit the world-famous cafes and smoke up or eat an edible. It’s a great treat for visitors, but maybe, a hassle for locals. The decision-makers in Amsterdam are now contemplating banning all tourists from the cannabis shops out of support for the life of the locals.

No. 1 Reason for Young Visitors 

The move comes shortly after a survey revealed most youngsters visit the city to try a cannabis cafe. For those living in countries with less lax marijuana laws, especially in Europe, that makes sense. According to a survey of young tourists commissioned by Mayor Femke, more than half claimed they visited the Dutch capital for marijuana. 

72% of visitors polled said they stopped at a coffee shop to get high. 57% said they visited mainly for the pot coffee shops. (The 2019 survey questioned 1,100 visitors from overseas between the ages of 18-35.) Now the question is, what would happen if the city banned these visitors from the shops? In the survey, 34% said they’d visit the city less often, while 11% wouldn’t return. Good riddance to those folks. If that’s all they go to Amsterdam for, they’re probably not the best of characters anyway. 

Too Much Tourism

How many cities can complain they have too many tourists? It helps drive up business, but it also provides plenty of headaches and frustrations for locals. Especially if visitors aren’t respectful of customs and laws. 

Tourism brings in around $91.5 billion a year from millions of visitors, but at a cost. In 2018, 18 million visited in 2018. In 2030, 42 million are expected to visit. They’re already experiencing visitor overload and it’s only going to get worse. The city has been making changes, such as banning tours of the red light district. The city is sick of visitors looking at sex workers like tourist attractions. 

The Downside 

As journalist Isballe Gerretsen told CNN, though, changes — especially involving cannabis — could produce negative consequences as well:

“It is understandable that Amsterdam residents want to preserve their beautiful historic center, and also go about their daily lives without constantly being confronted by rowdy tourists. The latest in a string of measures aimed at preserving the city’s status as a center of culture, rather than a theme park for ‘weed tourists’. But of all the measures, it is the riskiest. Because Amsterdam is known worldwide for its tolerant policy towards soft drugs. It could lead to a decline in tourist numbers.”

Locals Only!

Back in 2011 and 2012, talk had already begun of keeping visitors out of cannabis coffee cafes. At the time, the city of Amsterdam strongly opposed a “locals-only” approach as the Netherlands considered banning visitors from the cafes. Right now, that law only exists in the south of the country in Maastricht. Now, the survey asked visitors what they would do if they were barred from the cafes. 

A third of the group said they’d wisely ask a local to buy weed for them. Problem solved! Illegal, yes, but immoral? No. Others have argued to make cannabis more widely available in Amsterdam, so it’s not all on the cafes to provide it. Be more cannabis-friendly is the suggest solution, as some fear the city’s drug-friendly reputation will vanish if visitors are banned from the shops. 

If the city does indeed ban visitors from coffee shops, they’ll still have enough visitors to keep the city happy or annoyed. There’s plenty to see and do beside smoke up in a cafe. If that’s all someone is going to Amsterdam to do, who needs or wants them?

Jack Giroux is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Los Angeles, he is an entertainment journalist who's previously written for Thrillist, Slash Film, Film School Rejects, and The Film Stage.

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