Amsterdam May Ban Cannabis Tourism, Oregon Should Step Up

I have been so fortunate to travel to Amsterdam a few times and the great city has never disappointed. The Van Gogh museum, the 120-acre Vondelpark, walking around the Jordaan neighborhood to check out the many houseboats on the canals that wind through the city, are must-see attractions along with historical sites like the Anne Frank House and the Old Church, built in 1306. The city is amazingly clean, public transportation is easy to use, the food is great, and I found the locals to be extremely friendly. And yes, of course, the city is known for its cannabis coffeeshops, making Amsterdam a cannabis tourist destination soon after Mellow Yellow was opened by Wernard Bruinin back in 1972. Cannabis tourism will take a serious hit if Mayor Femke Halsema has her way.

In a letter to Amsterdam’s City Council, Mayor Halsema proposed her intention to enforce Netherland’s ban on foreign tourists purchasing cannabis at the city’s famed coffeeshops. DutchNews reported:

In recent months, calls have increased from politicians, businesses, tourist bodies and residents of the Dutch capital to enforce a national law which means only residents can buy from the coffeeshops. It was never enforced in Amsterdam because of concerns that it would drive the trade on to the street.

‘We are absolutely not heading for a cannabis-free Amsterdam because coffeeshops belong to the city,’ Halsema said, according to the Parool. ‘But there is a huge desire to change the tourism. Our freedom should not be a license for large groups of young people to throw up in the canals because they have smoked and drunk too much.’

The mayor also intends to limit the number of coffeeshops in any chain and regulate the supply with a new ‘quality mark’. Although coffeeshops fall under the mayor’s responsibilities, the new proposal will be discussed by Amsterdam council to draw up definitive plans, and there will also be a transition period before any ruling is enforced.

While I certainly defer to the judgment of those living in Amsterdam, I imagine that such a ban on cannabis tourism will be a huge mistake for a number of reasons. First of all, the economy will suffer and second of all, this move won’t end cannabis sales to foreigners, it will just push cannabis sales to tourists underground, unnecessarily turning more people into criminals.

While Amsterdam’s ban on cannatourism will have negative consequences for the international tourist destination, it could open up opportunities for other cities and states, and Oregon should be chomping at the bit (when we can get back to freely traveling and congregating in crowds again, of course). During the COVID pandemic, the cannabis industry has been one of the few bright spots in Oregon and the state should be looking at ways to fully unleash the power of the cannabis community.

It will take a long time for the state to recovery from the pandemic as well as last summer’s wildfires. Unfortunately, fires are likely to be a recurring occurrence, so the state needs to do what it can to maximize its business sectors. Just as Oregon has embraced the local wine and microbrewery industries, it needs to do the same with cannabis.

With a supermajority of Americans now embracing legalization and federal reforms coming soon, Oregon officials need to be bold on a variety of fronts to help the remaining local craft cannabis businesses thrive, and legalizing cannabis cafes and promoting the industry are starting points. Federal legalization is coming relatively soon, (probably not soon enough, but soon) and Oregon should be at the forefront of the industry. However, if the state doesn’t start helping mom and pops and small businesses, there won’t be many Oregonian-owned cannabis businesses prospering. I’ll continue detailing other needed reforms, but step by step, Oregon needs to capitalize on cannabis before it’s too late.

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