By Roland Sebestyén
Amsterdam has long been the go-to place for the European cannabis community, but the patience of many locals and officials has apparently come to an end. The proposed ban on cannabis tourism, however, is a very bad idea.
As someone from Budapest, Hungary, I can relate to those locals who are upset over the uncontrollable hordes of loud, pissed/high, disrespectful tourists. Budapest (and Prague, maybe) is the number one destination for stag/hen dos because – yes, it’s beautiful but, most importantly – it’s cheap.
I lived in downtown Budapest for years, and I can tell you that it was heartbreaking to see what some tourists were doing to my city. As a local resident, I don’t care about the money they spend – the city on the weekends was (and is) in tatters because of them.
And according to many locals and officials, Amsterdam has been in a similar situation for years.
Most of those visiting Amsterdam unashamedly do so to experience the city’s cannabis and red-light entertainment – a fact that paints a damning picture of a city that has been in the centre of European culture for so long.
The canals, the museums, the historic and unique windmills; Amsterdam has a lot to offer, and I think they are right when they propose a change that would potentially clear the city centre.
However, to ban foreign tourists from entering cannabis-serving coffee shops isn’t and cannot be the solution.
When Europe is slowly but surely catching up on North America in reforming its cannabis policies, going back to the beginning is not the turn we need to take right now.
Something must be done, I agree, but post-Covid times driving tourists from a safe environment into the arms of dangerous drug dealers is, well, problematic in more than one way, to say the least.
First of all, many businesses have already had a tough time over the last couple of years due to travel restrictions – the harsher the restrictions, the more tourists will stay away, which will mean the end for a lot of shops – and not just coffeeshops – in the near future.
Secondly, as a responsible leader, pushing consumers into the hands of the gangs who exploit kids and vulnerable people to sell dangerous drugs on the streets of your city is not a good move. During the peak of the Coronavirus pandemic, when the shops were closed, a surge in the presence of illegal dealers was widely reported.
Now, imagine the situation if the same number of tourists enter the city, but are unable to buy cannabis from legal, safe sources – they will, of course, turn to dealers offering products of questionable quality and safety.
No, this cannot be the direction Amsterdam takes. There must be another solution that would keep drug gangs at bay and continue to ensure the survival of honest, regulated, tax-paying businesses of Amsterdam.
Also, I am pretty sure that the problem is largely not with casual pot users but with those visiting the city for a big night out involving lots of alcohol and, often, other drugs.
Show me one person who goes berserk after having smoked cannabis. You cannot. Amsterdam needs to stop blaming cannabis users.
The cannabis community should be left alone. The real problem is much bigger. I think it is time to take on with the real enemy of the public: drunk tourists who are solely out to find and make trouble.
Believe you me, that would clear the city centre much more effectively.