Amsterdam won't enforce coffee shop tourist ban-mayor
By Thomas Escritt
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Amsterdam police will turn a blind eye to foreigners buying cannabis in its famous "coffee shops" when a national ban comes into force next year, the city's mayor said on Wednesday.
The mayor's comments put an end to months of uncertainty over a ban on foreign visitors purchasing cannabis at the shops that was introduced this year by a Dutch national government coalition which has since collapsed.
"It has been decided that Amsterdam law enforcement authorities will not attach any priority to enforcing the local residence requirement," Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan wrote in a letter to the current government.
The previous Liberal-Christian Democrat coalition government which introduced the ban complained that coffee shops attracted crime and unwelcome visitors.
But the legislation was greeted with dismay by officials in Amsterdam, whose more than 200 coffee shops are a major source of income.
Out of an estimated six to seven million annual tourists in Amsterdam "around one in three of them visit a coffee shop," Van der Laan wrote. "Our concern is that if we applied the residence requirement, they would buy cannabis products on the street."
The current Dutch government has stopped short of repealing a ban that was welcomed by southern provinces in the Netherlands where officials complained of traffic problems caused by drug tourists from Belgium and Germany.
From January 1, Amsterdam will impose some restrictions on cannabis use. Coffee shops will have to be at least 250 meters (yards) from schools. The city is also considering prohibiting use in public playgrounds.
(Reporting By Thomas Escritt. Editing by Anthony Deutsch)
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