Amsterdam wants to ban smoking cannabis in the Red Light District from mid-May
Amsterdam announced plans on Thursday to forbid people from smoking cannabis in the old city center of the capital. The ban will affect De Wallen, the portion of the city that includes the Red Light District. The city's political leadership is also investigating the possibility of stopping the distribution of soft drugs in the area during the late afternoon and evening, in addition to its plans to force sex workers to close up their windows earlier, and limits to alcohol sales in the neighborhood.
The set of proposals will soon be presented to residents, entrepreneurs, and others involved. They will have four weeks to provide feedback before the full city council debates the measures.
If approved by the full council, people in De Wallen will no longer be allowed to use soft drugs on the street starting in mid-May. The city said its goal is to cut down on disturbance caused by tourists, and to make life easier for people residing in the area.
"If the nuisance does not decrease sufficiently with the smoking ban, the possibilities of banning smoking on terraces at coffee shops in the area will also be examined," the city warned. Additionally, Mayor Femke Halsema and the coalition of aldermen who lead the city will investigate if they can also ban people from collecting soft drugs at businesses in De Wallen. This restriction could be put in place from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. from Thursday through Sunday. The political leaders have not yet determined if they have the power to implement such a ban, and if it can be enforced.
"Residents of the old city center are structurally and excessively bothered by the crowds and nuisance caused by mass tourism and substance abuse in the public space. The presence of tourists also attracts many street dealers who in turn cause crime and insecurity," the city's political leaders claimed. "The atmosphere can get grim especially at night; many people are under the influence and hang around for a long time." The city has already moved to ban drinking on the streets of De Wallen, and limits access to the area at peak times.
Halsema and the aldermen already said they intend to limit the hours that sex work business can stay open. Currently, windows in the Red Light District and some other sex work companies can stay open until 6 a.m. on weekends. The city wants to limit that to 3 a.m. starting on April 1.
Meanwhile, restaurants, cafes, and sex businesses where food and beverages are served would have to close by 2 a.m. on the weekends, instead of 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. as is currently the case. Those locations with a terrace would have to close the open-air areas at 1 a.m. during the summer months, which is one hour earlier. The city also wants to ban companies with a catering license from allowing new visitors to enter their premises after 1 a.m. These proposals would also launch at the start of April.
Additionally, Amsterdam's mayor and aldermen want to tighten up restrictions on alcohol sales in De Wallen. Already, shops, snack bars, and liquor stores have to stop selling alcohol at 4 p.m. from Thursday through Sunday. "This measure will apply indefinitely and will be tightened from mid-May. Alcoholic beverages must be shielded or removed from the shop at times when the alcohol sales ban applies," the city said in a statement.
"Residents of the old city center are structurally and excessively bothered by the crowds and nuisance caused by mass tourism and substance abuse in the public space," the city claimed. "The measures are part of the package announced last year to combat the crowds and nuisance in the Red Light District," the city continued. The problems make it hard for residents to sleep at night, reduces their quality of life, and is a detriment to the "safety of the entire neighbourhood."