Words: Dylan Murphy
The plan would see the number of coffee shops in the city fall from 166 to 68 and visitors unable to purchase cannabis.
Stoned selfies by the IAmAmsterdam signand narrowly avoiding getting run over by locals on bikes on the way out of a coffee shop. This is the quintessential Amsterdam experience for many tourists. Though it may be a novelty for hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, prior to COVID-19 Amsterdam was struggling to handle the sheer volume of tourists taking over the city every year.
For this reason, Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema called for a ban on foreigners buying weed in coffee shops once travelling becomes a regular occurrence again. Speaking to The Traveller, Femke noted cities such as Maastricht already have a ‘residence criterion’ that renders weed inaccessible to anyone other than Dutch residents and nationals.
The new found calm on the city streets in the midst of the pandemic has been a huge factor in the proposal, as local residents have had a renewed sense of space and freedom in a hotspot usually dominated by tourists.
To put things into perspective, Amsterdam is home to 850,000 people and it saw 19 million visitors annually. The city has an overtourism problem, so if the proposals did reduce visitors it might not be such a bad thing.
Mayor Halsema’s plans would see the city’s 166 coffee shops reduced to 68 , which would be enough to supply local demand. Citing a government survey suggesting 57 per cent of visitors aged 18-35 believe coffee shops were a “very important reason” for choosing the Dutch capital as a holiday destination, it’s part of a bigger plan to draw more “valuable visitors” to the city.
Geerte Udo, director of the city-marketing agency Amsterdam & Partners said, “The idea is to get away from visitors that have only one focus: coming through the Red Light District, getting stoned or drunk and causing a nuisance… In the last five years, we’ve seen the old city-center becoming a monoculture. Residents don’t feel it’s theirs anymore, which isn’t healthy for the visitor economy either.”
“What we will do is focus on city trippers with a preference for culture,” Udo continued.
However, Chairman of the Association of Cannabis Retailers in Amsterdam and co-owner of Amsterdam’s Green House coffee shops, Joachim Helms, can’t see the plan being effective.
“We see the kinds of tourists that visit coffee shops every day, and they’re people staying in five-star hotels, going to museums,” he said.
“They’ll come even if there’s a ban.” The survey Halsema cited found that, despite the interest in legal weed, visitors’ number one draw was walking and biking in the city.