Amsterdam tourism calls pot ban "tourism suicide"

Opponents of a plan by the Netherlands to ban foreigners from the country's pot-smoking shops — known as coffee shops — have labeled it "tourism suicide."

The Dutch government announced the ban on its website last month, with the aim of reducing "nuisance and drugs tourism."

It also planned to introduce the "Weed Pass," turning coffee shops into private clubs for Dutch citizens over 18, and then with restrictions. A press release from the Ministry of Security and Justice said that: 

access to coffee shops will be linked to a membership pass and the Cabinet will set a maximum number of members per coffee shop. Members have to be adults and Dutch citizens. 

The government said the measure was also needed to crack down on drug trafficking near the borders with Germany and Belgium.

"The number of criminal organizations that will be dealt with will be doubled from 20 to 40 percent,"  said in its statement.

The measure was set to go into effect this year in the southern part of the country, and then for the rest of the country in 2012.

But Amsterdam's tourism industry has come out in opposition to the ban, as has the mayor, who has has vowed to fight the measure, CNN reports.

The Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board, says the new measure discriminates against foreigners. The board also fears that "soft drugs will be sold on the street again, leading to more crime and dangerous situations."

"The Dutch government has decided upon this for the whole of the Netherlands. Amsterdam doesn't want it," said Machteld Ligtvoet, a spokeswoman for the Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board, CNN reports.

"Coffee shops are not actively promoted by our organization and are not used in order to attract tourists," Ligtvoet added. "However, the mere idea that one can buy and use soft drugs here is an attractive aspect of Amsterdam and its famous spirit of freedom."

Reuters reported that some of the estimated 220 coffee shops in Amsterdam's red light district are starting to close and that the policy will be in effect in other areas of the country by the end of the year.

But even in announcing the tougher stand, the government said Dutch drug use has "remained more or less stable in the past decade."