Amsterdam to reduce prostitution, sale of cannabis

Sat Dec 6, 2008 8:25am EST
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By Gilbert Kreijger

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Amsterdam authorities said on Saturday they would halve the number of brothels and marijuana shops in the city's "red light" district and surrounding area.

The city announced plans to clean up the area a year ago and since then 109 sex "windows," from which prostitutes attract customers, have been closed. The new measures aim to reduce the number of windows to 243 from 482 last year, a city spokesman said.

Amsterdam also wants to close half of the 76 cannabis shops in the city center.

"Money laundering, extortion and human trafficking are things you do not see on the surface but they are hurting people and the city. We want to fight this," deputy mayor of Amsterdam Lodewijk Asscher told Reuters.

"We can still have sex and drugs but in a way that shows the city is in control."

Prostitution was legalized in the Netherlands in 2000 and its soft drug policy, one of the most liberal in Europe, allows the sale of marijuana and possession of less than 5 grams (0.18 oz).

But Amsterdam's toughening line is part of a wider trend in the Netherlands.

Two Dutch cities near the Belgian border want to close all their cannabis shops to combat drug tourism and crime.

The 800-year-old red light district needs to diversify and showcase the city's history, Asscher said.

"This is a nice, old part of town. We can attract different groups of tourists. You should be able to have a beer at the old church square, watch fashion, and visit Chinatown," he said.