Amsterdam could ban coffee shops from selling cannabis to tourists in a bid to clean up its notorious red light district.

The Dutch capital is an extremely popular canna-tourism destination thanks to its liberal approach to marijuana sales, and legions of Brits visit every year to indulge. However, city leaders have published a briefing on plans to reduce Amsterdam’s reliance upon cannabis to make it an attractive tourist destination.

The city receives roughly 17.4 million visitors per year and locals have complained about the behaviour of young men that make a nuisance as they crowd around the red light district. It is also considering a crackdown on its legal prostitution zone in an effort to deter insalubrious tourists.

Mayor Femke Halsema commissioned the Research, Information and Statistics Department to conduct a study among foreign visitors to discover their motivations. Researchers interviewed 1,161 foreign visitors aged 18 to 35, and found that two-thirds cited smoking weed in coffee shops as a primary motivation for travelling to Amsterdam.


A third of the tourists polled said they would visit the city less frequently if they were barred from coffee shops, while 11% said they would not visit at all. Among British tourists, 42% said they would visit less frequently if only city residents were able to buy cannabis, while almost a third said they would never return to Amsterdam.

The city is also exploring the possibility of charging tourists to enter the red light district. A third of the tourists polled said they would avoid the area if charged for entry, while 44% said they would reduce the frequency of their visits.

The Netherlands produces medical marijuana and exports it to various European markets, but adult-use cultivation is outlawed. Yet the authorities have always turned a blind eye to the illicit growers that supply hundreds of cannabis cafés in various cities across the nation, particularly Amsterdam.

A trial will take place at 79 coffee shops in 10 towns, which will be supplied by legal cultivators between 2021 and 2025. If it proves to be successful, the Dutch government will expand it and push for a fully legal supply of marijuana for cafés.

Amsterdam was excluded from the trial, as it was deemed logistically problematic, and the authorities also feared it would be dangerous for all the city’s cafés to abandon their illicit suppliers en masse.

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