Amsterdam to Ban Weed Smoking on Streets of Red Light District

Stephen Andrews
14 Feb 2023

Amsterdam has been trying to deconstruct its image as one of the world's top destinations for cannabis tourists in recent years. City authorities have launched a number of initiatives that try to downsize the negative impact of mass tourism and thus improve the livelihood of locals, especially in some of the most affected areas, such as the famous Red Light District.

Amsterdam's city council announced a decision that it would ban the use of cannabis on the streets of the Red Light District. The measure will likely take effect in mid-May. The reason for this is the "nuisance" and "grim" atmosphere that dominates the area when the night sets in. The atmosphere is problematic for the people who live there. 

A statement from the council said that the residents of the old town suffer very much from mass tourism and the alcohol and drug abuse happening on the streets. The presence of tourists also indicates the presence of street dealers and with that more insecurities and more dangers. 

The overall ambience of the area has been described as "grim", especially after dark. Residents complain that they cannot sleep well and that the entire neighbourhood feels unsafe as people under the influence hang around for many long hours. 

The council adds in the statement that if the ban on smoking on the streets does not help, if it does not reduce the presence of tourists, they will investigate whether additional measures could be implemented, like banning smoking on terraces at coffee shops.

Amsterdam's first female mayor Femke Halesma has pledged to make the neighbourhood around the Red Light District more liveable for residents. She has so far implemented several other measures, like forbidding guided tours from passing by sex workers' windows. 

"For many visitors, the sex workers have become no more than an attraction to look at. In some cases this is accompanied by disruptive behaviour and a disrespectful attitude to the sex workers in the windows," the mayor's office said in a statement at the time.  

Between 10% and 15% of Amsterdam's tourist sector is based in the Red Light District, known as the De Wallen neighbourhood among Dutch people. 

Stephen Andrews