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21 Amsterdam coffeeshops too close to schools

The coalition agreement of the current Dutch government includes a provision that there must be a minimum distance of 350 meters beween cannabis-selling coffeeshops and the nearest school.

In 2010, 58 coffeeshops in the Netherlands were located within 350 meters (0.22 miles / 0.35 kilometers) of a school for secondary education. This amounts to 9 percent of all coffeeshops, one third (21) of which were located in Amsterdam.

The figures were announced by Netherlands Statistics, the Dutch statistics office.

In 2010 there were 650 coffeeshops in the Netherlands. 267 of them are located in the province of North Holland, 214 of which are in Amsterdam.

The distance of 350 meters is not measured as the crow flies, but rather by taking the most direct route using official roads.

In a reaction Education Minister Marja van Bijsterveldt said that the 58 coffeeshops still located within that distance would “have to go.” It is not clear whether that means they may be able to open up elsewhere or whether they have to close.

The Municipality of Amsterdam is still in discussion with her as to how the policy should be applied. Meanwhile the affected coffeeshops remain open.

Educational careers going up in smoke?

“This Cabinet does not want students’ educational careers to go up in smoke,” Van Bijsterveld explained.

However, secondary education in the Netherlands is provided between the ages of 12 and 18.

Critics of the distance provision point out that coffeeshops already are not permitted to cater to minors — anyone under the age of 18.

Yet even if coffeeshops were allowed to sell cannabis products to minors, having to travel further than 350 meters (which takes about 4 or 5 minutes on foot) would not necessarily be much of a deterrent.

Conservative Christian elements within the Netherlands’ previous Cabinet wanted to push for a measure that would have prohibited coffeeshops to operate within 500 meters of primary or extended education schools.

In that case, 93% of Amsterdam’s coffeeshops would have had to close, leaving just 16 coffeeshops which are mostly concentrated in the area around Rembrandtplein in downtown Amsterdam

Amsterdam’s Coffeeshops

Tourist Destination

A 2007 report by Amsterdam’s Department for Research and Statistics shows that of the 4.5 million tourists who spend the night in Amsterdam during a given year, 26% visit a coffeeshop. According to the Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board, 10% of tourists even mention this as a primary reason to visit the city.

The current Dutch government plans to introduce a pass card/membership system for coffeeshops, open only to legal residents of the Netherlands — effectively barring tourists.

Amsterdam’s political leaders are opposed to these plans.

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This post was last updated: Sep. 9, 2011