Amsterdam closes 7 city center tourist shops for selling “hemp joints”
Seven souvenir and tobacco shops in Amsterdam's city center were ordered to close on accusations that they were illegally dealing in soft drugs, the municipality announced in a press release issued on Thursday. An investigation by the police uncovered that these stores possessed a significant quantity of hemp joints.
The sale of such products is only allowed in coffeeshops under strict health and safety regulations, the city claimed. The affected stores are all city center locations, and are situated on Dam Square, Damrak, Damstraat, Rokin, and Singel.
The municipality said that “trafficking, use and presence of drugs have a negative effect on public order,” adding that it can lead to “insecurity for passers-by and local residents due to nuisance and the attraction of the store to criminal activity.”
In December 2022, Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema announced plans to deploy special control teams to check souvenir shops for any suspicious activities. Police inspected ten stores on March 23, and said soft drugs were discovered in seven of them, reported Het Parool. The findings cumulatively involved 2,540 pre-rolled joints containing a total of 1,270 grams of cannabis. Documents obtained from one store revealed that 12,100 “hemp joints” were purchased in 2022, the newspaper reported.
The retailers' attorney told the newspaper that the stores had not violated the Opium Act by selling any prohibited products and claimed that referring to the items in question as "joints" was incorrect.
According to the newspaper, all of the affected stores are owned by Q&Q Tabak & Souvenirs B.V., which is operated by 44-year-old Davoud Quadri. In recent years, Quadri has taken over a significant number of souvenir stores in Amsterdam, according to a study by the investigative journalism platform Investico and the Dutch weekly news magazine De Groene Amsterdammer. During and after the initial coronavirus lockdown, the entrepreneur acquired over a dozen souvenir and tobacco shops in the city center.
Quadri, who said he came to the Netherlands as a refugee from Afghanistan twenty years ago with no financial resources, claimed to have financed all acquisitions using his own savings and by leveraging the turnover from his other businesses. The investigation also revealed that he was supported by a notary who had been previously removed from office by the Notary Chamber in 2016 for involvement in money laundering.
The investigative report noted that the souvenir sector is particularly vulnerable to money laundering due to the high-profit margins and fluctuating prices of the products sold. Also, cash transactions account for approximately eighty percent of sales, which makes it easy to blend with criminal drug money.
For years, the Amsterdam municipality has been working to address this problem. In 2008, they launched Project 1012, an initiative aimed at curbing drug trafficking in the city center, notably in souvenir shops, but it achieved only limited success.
Two years ago, the municipality shut down six tourist shops due to their involvement in drug trafficking.