Ban on Outdoor Pot Smoking in Amsterdam’s Red Light District To Begin This Month

A new ordinance banning cannabis use on the streets in Amsterdam’s Red Light District is slated to take effect later this month. 

The ban, officially approved by Amsterdam’s city council last week, will “come into effect from May 25 and will be enforced by police and local officials,” according to Bloomberg, which noted that violation of the new law will result in a €100 (or $109) fine.

The law was offered up by the Amsterdam city council in February, with local officials decrying the “nuisance” and “grim” atmosphere of the famous district at night.

“Residents of the old town suffer a lot from mass tourism and alcohol and drug abuse in the streets. Tourists also attract street dealers who in turn cause crime and insecurity. The atmosphere can get grim especially at night. People who are under the influence hang around for a long time. Residents cannot sleep well and the neighborhood becomes unsafe and unlivable,” the city council said in a statement at the time.

“A smoking ban on the street should reduce nuisance. We are also looking at a pick-up ban at certain times for soft drugs. If the nuisance does not decrease enough, we will investigate whether we can ban smoking on terraces at coffee shops,” the council continued.

CNN reported at the time that if the outdoor smoking ban failed to achieve the desired results, the “municipality said it would also consider banning take-out purchases of soft drugs at certain times, and banning smoking marijuana at coffee shops’ outdoor seating areas.”

“It is estimated that about 10% to 15% of Amsterdam’s tourist industry is based in the red light district,” according to CNN. “City officials want the De Wallen neighborhood, as the district is known in Dutch, to draw visitors who can appreciate its unique heritage, architecture and culture rather than sex and drugs. Over the past few years, there have been multiple initiatives to reduce the impact of mass tourism and nuisance visitors, and to revamp the area’s image.

In 2020, guided tours were prohibited from passing sex workers’ windows, and there was talk of moving the window brothels to a neighborhood outside of the city center—conversations that continue to this day.” 

Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema has prioritized cleaning up the Red Light District since becoming mayor nearly five years ago.

In 2019, Halsema, who is Amsterdam’s first female mayor, “presented four options aimed at protecting sex workers from degrading conditions, tackling crime, and reducing the impact of tourism in Amsterdam’s De Wallen red-light district,” CNN reported at the time.

“For many visitors, the sex workers have become no more than an attraction to look at. In some cases this is accompanied by disruptive behavior and a disrespectful attitude to the sex workers in the windows,” Halsema’s office said, as quoted by CNN, which outlined some of the mayor’s proposed reforms:

“Four scenarios have been proposed for discussion including closing the curtains on the windows so sex workers can’t be seen from the street, fewer window-style rooms, moving the brothels to new locations elsewhere in Amsterdam and the possibility of a sex worker “hotel” being created. The plans aim to protect sex workers from gawking tourists and their camera phones, and also to combat a rise in abuses such as human trafficking. The four proposals will be discussed with sex workers, residents and businesses in July, before being taken to the city council in September. The plans will ultimately be developed into a new policy on sex work, the mayor’s office confirmed.”

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