Amsterdam Bans Marijuana Smoking on Streets of Red-Light District

Amsterdam will soon ban the smoking of marijuana on the streets of its popular red-light district, according to rules introduced on Thursday that are aimed at cracking down on the noisy tourists that local residents have long-complained about.

“This should reduce the nuisance caused by drug use in public spaces, particularly by tourists,” Mayor Femke Halsema of Amsterdam said in a statement. The rules, which will further limit alcohol sales in the area, are set to go into effect in mid-May.

The mayor’s statement said that residents of the red-light district, a hub for legal prostitution in Amsterdam, have been “excessively bothered” by crowds and nuisance caused by mass tourism and substance abuse on public streets. The atmosphere in the old city has become especially grim at night, when drunken tourists, loitering in the streets, compromise the safety and the ability of residents to live there undisturbed, the statement said.

Amsterdam, like other European capitals, has struggled with how to make itself a vibrant hub for international tourists while also being safe and quiet for residents. The Dutch capital, known for its centuries-old canals, art scene, restaurants and historic buildings, has also attracted tourists because of its liberal attitude toward prostitution and drug use.

In 2019, more than 21.7 million tourists visited the Netherlands, a number that dropped to more than seven million the next year, during the pandemic, according to the World Bank. Amsterdam has a population of about 820,000.

Under the package of rules introduced on Thursday, prostitution businesses must shut at 3 a.m., three hours earlier than the previous closing time. Cafes and restaurants must also close earlier, at 2 a.m.

If the ban on marijuana smoking does not reduce disruptions, local authorities will also consider extending the ban to the terraces of businesses, known as coffee shops, which are allowed to sell marijuana, the statement said. (Shops in Amsterdam that sell actual coffee are called cafes.)

The new rules are the latest in a series of steps that Amsterdam has taken to discourage certain types of tourists. They include bans on some businesses that cater primarily to tourists, guided tours of the red-light district and the sale of alcohol after 4 p.m. from Thursday to Sunday.

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