Amsterdam institutes red light cannabis ban

PHOTO: Citing rising crime, Amsterdam moves to ban cannabis from the red light district. (via CNN)

While Thailand has turned into a cannabis-free-for-all, some have warned that legalisation leads to a destructive path to crime and degeneration. Those defending legislation have pointed to places where cannabis has been legal for years without becoming Sodom & Gomorrah, like some US states and, famously, Amsterdam.

But now authorities in Amsterdam have announced plans to ban street smoking of cannabis in the city’s red light district, beginning in mid-May. This move is part of a wider crackdown on anti-social behaviour and crime.

The red light district is a popular tourist destination and is known for its legal brothels – not exactly a pillar of virtue. But, the area has also seen a rise in urban crime and what officials described as anti-social behaviour, leading police to describe it as a “square kilometre of misery.”

In the Netherlands, coffee shops are allowed to sell cannabis, provided they follow strict conditions. However, possessing, selling, or producing more than five grams of the drug is illegal.

While it has become a major tourism strategy for Thailand, Dutch authorities put out a statement explaining the move to ban cannabis smoking in public in Amsterdam as it harms the city.

“[Residents are] very upset at mass tourism and abuse of alcohol and drugs in the street. Tourists equally attract street dealers which leads to criminality and insecurity.”

The statement warns that streets are becoming unsafe, particularly at night. So they are restricting cannabis usage and forbidding it on the roads. If these restrictions do not have the desired effect, the authorities warn that they may extend them to coffee shop terraces.

Compared to Amsterdam, Thailand now has a much more relaxed attitude toward cannabis. While the drug was legalised in June, almost no regulations were enacted and efforts to reign in unrestricted usage have been met with political bickering.

Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul’s Bhumjaithai Party pushed for the decriminalisation of cannabis and, at first, it seemed like a big political win. But as shops and sellers crop up on every street corner and usage in public is widespread, there has been significant backlash from the Thai public.

Hardliners have called for recriminalisation of cannabis, and have rejected any half-step measures of regulation. They are likely benefitting from the backlash against cannabis and the parties that supported legalisation as easy political points for them.

The move by Amsterdam to restrict cannabis due to rising crime will only bolster support by these political parties in their opposition to legal weed.

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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