Amsterdam tourist cannabis ban rejected by mayor

Protestor lights marijuana joint, Amsterdam 20 April 2012 A third of Amsterdam's visitors come to use cannabis

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The mayor of Amsterdam says he will not ban foreign tourists from using the city's famous cannabis cafes, after months of argument over new drug laws.

The move comes after the new government of the Netherlands said it would be up to local authorities whether or not to impose such a ban.

Mayor Eberhard van der Laan said banning the sale of the drug to foreigners could lead to more crime.

Each year, some 1.5 million tourists visit Amsterdam to consume cannabis.

"The 1.5 million tourists will not say 'then no more marijuana', they will swarm all over the city looking for drugs," said Mayor Van der Laan, who has long opposed a ban.

"This would lead to more robberies, quarrels about fake drugs, and no control of the quality of drugs on the market - everything we have worked towards would be lost to misery."

Tourism fears

Amsterdam also relies heavily on tourism, and cannabis users make up about a third of its total visitors.

Under laws introduced by the previous conservative-led Dutch government, a national ban on foreigners using cannabis was due to be rolled out to Amsterdam by the end of this year.

It was intended to curb drug use and prevent drug dealers from operating in the Netherlands, and prevent them from buying drugs to sell abroad.

The move was strongly opposed by cafe owners, who said the law unfairly discriminated against other EU residents, and warned that 90% of their income came from foreign tourists.

There are an estimated 700 coffee shops selling cannabis in the Netherlands.

It is not strictly legal to use cannabis, but its use is tolerated and possession of small amounts was decriminalised in the 1970s.

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