Amsterdam mayor seeks to ban tourists from 'coffee shops'

The Hague (AFP) –


Amsterdam's ecologist mayor Femke Halsema on Friday proposed banning tourists from the Dutch city's famous cannabis "coffee shops".

A large part of the rising number of tourists visiting Amsterdam every year were coming merely to consume the drug and such "cannabis tourists" had become a nuisance, Halsema told NOS public television.

"Amsterdam is an international city and we wish to attract tourists, but we would like them to come for its richness, its beauty and its cultural institutions," she said.

Cannabis is technically illegal in the Netherlands, but the possession of less than five grammes (0.18 ounces) of the substance was decriminalised in 1976 under a so-called "tolerance" policy.

While production of cannabis remains illegal, the so-called coffee shops are allowed to sell it.

In a letter to the city council, Halsema said she hopes to make Amsterdam less attractive as "a place of soft drugs tourism."

There are 570 of these coffee shops in the country, according to health ministry figures. Amsterdam is home to around 166, or about 30 percent of the total, according to the city's own data.