Amsterdam Is Banning Cannabis Use in the Red Light District

Residents of the historic neighborhood are tired of rowdy tourists

Red light destrict view and Amsterdam canal, bicycles and cyclists
De Wallen turns into a rowdy mess come nightfall.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

On a recent trip to Amsterdam, I begrudgingly agreed to walk through the city’s De Wallen neighborhood — also known as the red light district — at my husband’s request on the way back to our hotel after a night out. Of course, the Saturday night scene was as annoying as expected as we weaved through the crowd of international frat boys who could barely walk straight. I was just visiting, but for actual Amsterdam residents who live in the historic neighborhood, the raucous nighttime scene is a scourge on their peace. 

But the city is taking steps to curb the disturbances and encourage people not to party there. The Municipality of Amsterdam made a statement this week that said they’re going to ban the use of cannabis on the street, effective mid-May. Let’s take a moment to remember that cannabis isn’t legal in Amsterdam, it’s simply decriminalized, and the government chooses to look the other way, so long as it’s not creating issues. And the people of Amsterdam know how to party hard, albeit like adults. So really, the rowdy tourists who are coming through are ruining things for everyone.

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Back in 2020, Amsterdam banned red light district tours, with a statement from the deputy mayor saying he didn’t think it was “appropriate for tourists to leer at sex workers.” The city even launched a “stay away” campaign to discourage international visitors from coming if their plans are to “go wild.” It’s estimated that 10% to 15% of Amsterdam’s tourism industry is based in the red light district, and the city expects to see more than 23 million overnight visitors by 2024. But an ordinance called “Amsterdam Tourism in Balance” says the city will be “obliged to intervene” when that number hits 18 million, which will likely happen this year.

There’s nothing wrong with getting your party on in Amsterdam, but for the love of god, do it with a little class.


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