Public Smoking Ban Begins in Amsterdam.

Liz Filmer
28 May 2023

Cannabis smoke was noticeably absent from Amsterdam's red light district on Thursday, 25th May, as the public smoking ban began.

After years of complaints from residents about bad behaviour from the 18 million annual travellers, a crackdown on problem tourism is now in full swing. Last month, the municipality began a "stay away" campaign – aimed primarily at rowdy Britons - banning the sale of alcohol in shops at the weekend and imposing earlier closing times for pubs and window brothels.

With the ban's implementation, tourists and residents face a €100 (£87) fine for smoking cannabis in public in and around the red light district.

For locals sick of rowdy, noisy stag nights, littered streets and public indecency on their doorsteps, the ban in De Wallen meaning "the old city walls" – is a sign that their worries are finally being taken seriously.
Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema and all the political parties agreed that the large crowds of tourists had impacted negatively on the area's livability and the fact that emergency vehicles struggle
 to access the narrow, medieval streets at peak times.

The city has further plans for the red light area. The Mayor is currently in talks with private developers concerning the potential construction of a large-scale erotic centre elsewhere in the city and removing 100 brothel windows from the Wallen.

Halsema is also hoping to enforce a national residents-only law for coffee shops, whilst there is also a federal determination to crack down on drug-related criminality that is believed to be behind some red-light district businesses.

However, some business owners are concerned that tourists will stop coming altogether.

"The soul of the neighbourhood, what makes it so extraordinary, is slowly being pulled out,"-the Bulldog coffee shop spokesperson.

They believe that the answer is instead an increase in the policing of existing laws against drinking in public and drug dealing. 

It's not just locals who risk prosecution or fines, though. Locals worry that Amsterdam citizens are just as likely to be caught up in the penalties, especially after recent ongoing battles with the city council surrounding new Airbnb-style rental regulations. 

"The rules will be difficult for visitors to understand because they might be able to smoke on the other side of the canal or a private terrace in the red-light district. So we can only hope the council doesn't treat unwitting offenders as disproportionately as they did short-stay hosts, who made unintentional mistakes thanks to complex rules."  -Maarten Bruinsma, chair of the Amsterdam Gastvrij and B&B owner.

Liz Filmer