Amsterdam used to be the destination for the world’s stoners. One of the only major cities which allowed visitors to buy weed legally, it was the first home to the Cannabis Cup and attracted 420-friendly visitors from all corners of the globe.

With the legalization explosion of the last five years in the United States and Canada, Amsterdam holds a somewhat less important place in the hearts of North American potheads. While it still has its fair share of European cannabis tourists, apparently the Dutch city’s leaders are looking to deter them from visiting.

The easiest way to do that might be to change the laws concerning cannabis retail, which is exactly what Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema wants to do.

Trying to gain support for her policy, Halsema recently released new statistics indicating that a reduction in weed sales could make the city less unpleasant for residents.

With a population of 1.1 million, Amsterdam sees more than 17 million visitors a year, many of them for its reputation for drugs and sex. The city has become so congested with tourists that it has stopped promoting its attractions to visitors.

Halsema’s survey indicates that new limitations on cannabis would cut down on unwanted tourists. 34% of visitors to Wallen abd Single (areas known for its sex workers and “coffee shops” whcih sell weed) said they would visit the city less if they were not allowed to buy cannabis at coffee shops. 11% said they would never come again.

British visitors were especially put off by the suggestion, with 42% saying they would come to Amsterdam less often, but 18% saying they would just find a black market alternative for their cannabis needs.

Beyond curbing pesky tourists, the proposed change in policy has another, perhaps even more important, motive: to weaken the city’s organized crime. While Amsterdam law allows for coffee shops to sell cannabis, cannabis production is still illegal, which often leads to so-called “back door” deals between coffee shops and gangs.

Mayor Halsema has said that she wants her study “to reduce the attraction of cannabis to tourists and the (local) regulation of the back door … A clear separation of markets between hard drugs and soft drugs has great urgency because of the hardening of the trade in hard drugs.”

Photo via Flickr/Luca Sartoni

Natalie