A new era kicked off in Amsterdam’s Red Light District on Thursday, as a ban on smoking cannabis on the streets officially went into effect.
The ban is part of a citywide effort, pushed by Mayor Phimke Halsema, to make the popular area more friendly to its residents and workers.
According to Reuters, Banners were “hung in the canal-lined neighborhood known for its brothels, sex clubs and marijuana cafés, which attract millions of tourists annually, but are a nuisance to residents”.
Those found violating the new law will face a fine of 100 euros (or about $110).
The law was proposed earlier this year by the Amsterdam City Council.
The population of the old town suffers greatly from mass tourism and the use of alcohol and drugs on the streets. Tourists also attract itinerant traders who in turn cause crime and insecurity. It can get gloomy especially at night. People who are under the influence of loitering for a long time. “Residents cannot sleep well and the neighborhood is unsafe and unlivable,” the city council said in a statement at the time.
“Banning smoking in the street should reduce nuisance. We are also looking at banning pick-up at certain times of soft drugs. If the nuisance does not reduce enough, we will investigate whether we can ban smoking in stands in cafes,” the council added.
The city council gave final approval to the proposal earlier this month, setting the stage for Thursday.
According to Reuters, People “will still be allowed to smoke indoors and on the terraces of coffee shops that sell marijuana and hashish in the area and other parts of the city.”
The smoking ban is part of an effort led by Halsema, Amsterdam’s first female mayor, to improve conditions in the Red Light district.
CNN reported in 2019 that Halsema “presented four options aimed at protecting sex workers from degrading conditions, tackling crime, and reducing the impact of tourism in Amsterdam’s red-light district De Wallen”.
Four scenarios were proposed for discussion including closing the curtains on the windows so that the sex workers could not be seen from the street, fewer window-style rooms, moving the brothels to new locations elsewhere in Amsterdam and the possibility of a sex worker ‘hotel’ under construction. “, According to CNN. The plans aim to protect sex workers from staring at tourists and their camera phones, as well as combat the rise in abuses such as human trafficking. The four proposals will be discussed with sex workers, residents and businesses in July, before being taken to city council in September. The sheriff’s office confirmed that the plans would eventually be developed into a new policy on sex work.”
The Red Light District, known locally in Amsterdam as the De Wallen district, has long been a popular destination for tourists visiting the city.
CNN reported earlier this year It is estimated that around 10% to 15% of Amsterdam’s tourism industry is located in the red light district.
CNN reported at the time that “city officials want the De Wallen neighborhood, as it is known in Dutch, to attract visitors who can appreciate its unique heritage, architecture and culture rather than sex and drugs.” Over the past few years, there have been multiple initiatives to reduce the impact of mass tourism and visitor inconvenience, and to rejuvenate the area’s image.
In 2020, guided tours were forbidden to pass through the windows of sex workers, and there was talk of moving window brothels to a neighborhood outside of downtown—talks that continue to this day. “