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Business as usual for Amsterdam coffeeshops as mayor says tourists are welcome

Tourists will continue to be able to visit Amsterdam’s coffeeshops next year after the new government relaxed the rules on entry to Dutch cannabis cafes.

Tourists will continue to be able to walk into coffeeshops such as the Tweede Kamer in Amsterdam.The government says it will scrap the much-criticised “wietpas” law, which turned coffeeshops into tightly regulated private members’ clubs that only registered Dutch residents can visit.

In theory coffeeshop users will still have to show proof that they live in the Netherlands, but the decision on how to police the system will rest with town halls.

The coalition agreement says the new rules can be phased in a way that is “consistent with local coffeeshop and safety policies”.

Amsterdam’s mayor, Eberhard van der Laan, told De Volkskrant he will use that flexibility to allow Amsterdam’s coffeeshops to remain open to all comers.

In effect, it means the city’s police will not be asked to enforce the rules, leaving tourists free to visit the city’s 220 establishments.

One-third of all coffeeshops in the Netherlands are in the capital and an estimated 1.5 million visitors a year include a trip to a cannabis café on their itinerary.

The development is a setback for supporters of the wietpas rules, such as justice minister Ivo Opstelten, who wanted to stop the flow of “drugs tourists” to the country.

Originally only registered members would have been allowed into coffeeshops, with a limit of 2,000 members per café.

Owners said the system would have a devastating effect on their business and lead to a rise in street dealing, not least because many cannabis smokers were reluctant to put their names and addresses on an official register.

Van der Laan had been publicly critical of the new regime from the outset, predicting that it would make the streets less safe. “More street robbery, arguments over fake drugs, no quality control – all the troubles of the past will come back.”

He said he would continue to crack down on crime and disorder in the vicinity of coffeeshops and take measures against cannabis use by teenagers.

Other cities in the west, including Rotterdam and Haarlem, have been similarly critical of the system and may now take the same line as Amsterdam.

Cities such as Maastricht, whose mayor Onno Hoes defended the wietpas, are likely to enforce the rule requiring visitors to show proof of residence more strictly.

The wietpas has been in force in the three southern provinces since May 1 and was due to be extended across the country from the start of next year.

Source: De Volkskrant: Amsterdamse coffeeshops blijven open voor toerist