Amsterdam bans cannabis smoking outside in red light district

City council is introducing new rules to improve the quality of life for locals

Amsterdam, red light district
Around 18 million tourists visited Amsterdam last year, many for ‘alcohol, drugs and sex’
(Image credit: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Smoking cannabis on the street in Amsterdam’s world-famous red light district will soon be illegal under new regulations being introduced by the city council.

The new laws are expected to come into effect from mid-May in an attempt to improve living conditions for local residents. “With more than 18 million visitors thronging its narrow 17th-century streets last year”, people living in the city centre have “long complained” that the area was “becoming unlivable”, said The Guardian.

The Dutch capital is famous for its cannabis-selling “coffee shops”, but locals have complained that the huge influx of tourists attracts street dealers and say frequent drug and alcohol abuse is driving up crime rates.

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“The atmosphere can get grim especially at night,” said a council press release on Thursday, which announced the new rules. “People who are under the influence hang around for a long time. Residents cannot sleep well and the neighbourhood becomes unsafe and unlivable.”

Under the new regulations, smoking cannabis in public will be outlawed, with the council also prepared to extend the ban to the terraces of cannabis coffee shops if needed.

The city council also said restaurants and bars would have to close by 2am on weekdays and 4am on Fridays and Saturdays and no new customers would be allowed in after 1am. Sex workers in the red light district of De Wallen will also have to close their venues at the earlier time of 3am, rather than 6am.

Dutch newspaper Het Parool called the new rules a “historic intervention”, describing Amsterdam as a place known worldwide “where everything was possible and everything was permissible – including smoking weed on the street”. But it noted that an influx of “brawling tourists” had made the red light district unlivable for ordinary residents.

The city council is due to launch a “stay away” campaign this year in an attempt to deter foreign visitors from coming to Amsterdam just “for alcohol, drugs, and sex”.

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