Smoke Keeps Rising in Amsterdam’s Coffeeshops
If some of the Netherlands’ more conservative civic leaders had their say, marijuana would no longer be available to visitors in this country. Tired of Amsterdam’s longstanding brand association with marijuana since it was decriminalized in the 1970s, last year, the government introduced a mandatory membership card which would be required to purchase the drug—a card that would only be available to Dutch citizens.
Fortunately for those of you saddened by this news, cooler heads have prevailed, as the law was repealed just before its scheduled introduction on January 1st. Instead, each city in the Netherlands will be able to regulate marijuana as they choose.
Credit people like Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan for letting common sense and foresight trump conservative politics:
“It’s not like tourists are going to say ‘OK, there’s no cannabis here anymore,” and accept it, van der Laan said. “Instead, they’re just goingt o try to find it on the streets, leading to a larger black market, more disputes with dealers, no control over its quality and all of the other problems we used to have.”
Of course there is an economic play as well. According to Amsterdam’s Bureau for Tourism, about 25 percent of the city’s 6 million annual foreign visitors visit one of the country’s 750 coffeeshops (220 in Amsterdam alone) to experiment. They estimated that the law would have deterred about 1 million of these from even including Amsterdam in their travel plans.
Whatever the ultimate motivation behind the repeal—be it common sense or euro stacks—it is great to see Amsterdam’s cannabis tradition remain alive and well.