Amsterdam to ban cannabis smoking on streets of famous red light district

People walk through the red light district, known as De Wallen, in Amsterdam (AFP/Getty Images)
People walk through the red light district, known as De Wallen, in Amsterdam (AFP/Getty Images)

Amsterdam is set to ban smoking cannabis on the streets of its famous red light district within months.

The area - known for its sex shows, adult clubs and brothels - draws millions of visitors each year.

But following years of complaints from residents over the anti-social behaviour of tourists, the city on Thursday announced plans to roll out new restrictions to make the city more livable.

The crackdown, set to come into effect in mid-May, will see restaurants and brothels close earlier at weekends, and smoking cannabis banned on the streets.

Under the new rules, restaurants and bars that can currently open until 3am or 4am will be forced to shut at 2am on Fridays and Saturdays.

Brothels can currently run until 6am, but will have to close at 3am.

Meanwhile “no new visitors” will be allowed to enter the old city area after 1am.

A statement on the Government of Amsterdam’s website says: “These proposed measures in the Red Light District should further counteract the enormous nuisance, especially at night.

“Residents of the old town suffer a lot from mass tourism and alcohol and drug abuse in the streets,” it added.

“Tourists also attract street dealers who in turn cause crime and insecurity. Especially at night the atmosphere can get grim.

“People who are under the influence hang around for a long time. Residents cannot sleep well and the neighborhood becomes unsafe and unlivable.

“A smoking ban on the street should reduce nuisance. We are also looking at a pick-up ban at certain times for soft drugs.

“If the nuisance does not decrease enough, we will investigate whether we can ban smoking on terraces at coffee shops.”

The sale of alcohol is already banned in the red light district from 4pm on Thursday to Sunday, but the new rules will see alcohol screened off or removed from display during the times of the sales ban.

Residents and business owners have four weeks to comment on the proposals.

In the Netherlands, it is against the law to possess, sell or produce drugs.

But the country “tolerates” the sale of soft drugs in so-called coffee shops - where cannabis may be sold and consumed subject to certain conditions.