Amsterdam cannabis cafes fear foreign tourist ban amid COVID recovery

Lee Heidhues 11.2.2021

A long time ago I lived nearly a year in Amsterdam. I found the Dutch city to be tolerant and conservative. I understand why the generally reserved Dutch have become frustrated with the hordes of dope smoking visitors from around the World.

During my months in Amsterdam I found it to be a truly international City, at least in the center of the metropolis. It was lively and vibrant with a flourishing red light district and a robust night life. With the legalization of marijuana another entertainment lure has been added to Amsterdam’s attraction as a tourist mecca.

Banning pot smoking foreigners is the radical but possible solution to resolve the problem.

Excerpted from Deutsche Welle 11.2.2021

Authorities in one of Europe’s most visited cities are eyeing a ban on pot for tourists as a way to cut down on rowdy travelers, but critics say such a measure could push the industry underground.

As Amsterdam’s tourism industry slowly begins to recover from the impact of the pandemic, its famous cannabis cafes could be facing a new hurdle, in the form of a ban on foreign tourists.

Earlier this year, the city’s mayor, Femke Halsema, touted a proposal to ban foreign tourists from entering cannabis-serving establishments as a way to reinvent the city’s image. Banning foreigners from cafes, supporters say, would help to stop the influx of rowdy tourists who crowd the city’s streets and annoy some locals.

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Along with legal Pot, legalized prostitution is also a feature of Amsterdam

However, following more than a year without much revenue from overseas travelers, cafes fear that such a ban would make recovery even more difficult, driving out legal businesses and creating a platform for street dealers.

In recent pre-pandemic years, the city attracted around 20 million tourists annually. But even after several lockdown measures were lifted, the number of foreign visitors to the city remains well below that previous total.

Eve Mcguire, who works at Coffeeshop Reefer, said that without tourists, a sizable portion of the cafe’s revenue would disappear.

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Eve Mcguire doubts foreign tourists will be banned from cannabis-serving establishments

“If they were to ban the tourists, 80% of our customers would be gone,” Mcguire told DW. “And not only this, but Dutch people don’t chill in coffee shops. If you’re Dutch, you buy your weed and you go home. The people that chill in coffee shops are tourists.”

Gary Gallagher, the manager of the Amsterdam Cannabis Museum, told DW that even with newly-eased travel restrictions, the amount of cash flowing in is still only about half of what it was before the pandemic.

He believes that due to the amount of money that the industry brings in, such a ban on foreigners in cafes is unlikely to come into effect. Even if officials manage to push the ban through, he and other critics say it would likely push the cannabis industry underground.

“I think they can change the rules and not the culture. Amsterdam will have this reputation forever,” he said.

“When they closed the coffee shops for [the] corona[virus pandemic], there were drug dealers on every street corner. So a few days later they reversed the move.”

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Mcguire agrees that the chances of such a ban are exceptionally slim. “It’s totally a lie,” she said. “They will never ever let that come to pass.”

She is also concerned that enforcing such a law would be difficult, given the number of non-Dutch European Union residents who work in the city.

“People would have to show residency, but you don’t need residency to work here if you’re within the European Union,” said Mcguire.

However, even Mcguire herself found Amsterdam to be more peaceful without the influx of travelers. “It was nice to not hear seven days a week 24/7 people coming in and out. The street never shuts up, I didn’t miss the tourists to be honest,” said Mcguire.