Amsterdam City Profile

In what ways are cities being affected by local drug usage?


1) Why did the Dutch government decided to make create the

2) What are the top three most popular drugs used in Amsterdam?

3) What are the legal parameter surrounding the "coffeeshop" establishments in Amsterdam?

Amsterdam overview:

Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands. Throughout history, Amsterdam has always been a melting pot of cultures, once famous for its expansive trading industry, in the 17th century it was the center of global economy. Because of this, the Netherlands saw a lot of rural-urban migration where farmers and villagers from around the country moved to Amsterdam in hopes of benefiting from the booming trade industry. Amsterdam has always been a beacon for migration, from the 17th century to now.Nowadays, Amsterdam is well known for its tolerant character. Amsterdam, hailed the Venice of the North, was built for defense, with a compact city surrounded by semi-circles separated by canals but linked together with bridges. Despite being a city located and formed following the curve of the pre-existing rivers, displaying skills of adaptability to high degrees. The city is not only well-suited to human needs, but also to environmental needs, with smart city planning allowing for more environmentally friendly means of transport to populate the streets (see more here).

Amsterdam strives to be an inclusive city, with a popular local advertising slogan "IAmsterdam" hoping to ensure that in Amsterdam, everyone feels included. There is a large 3D version of this slogan, which is the most photographed site in Amsterdam. To quote from this website: "everyone should be able to say, “I Am Amsterdam.” It is meant to serve not only as part of the city’s tourist and business promotion activities, but also to convey to the city’s hugely diverse population that we're all one — and should be proud of it". On the other hand, there was recently a controversial movement to ban foreigners from these Dutch coffeeshops. However, the Dutch government's ultimate decision was to let the municipalities decide. Amsterdam was one of the only cities that decided not to place with the ban. This decision has fostered the sense of authenticity and individuality surrounding the city.

#1 This article was found on It discusses the question of organic and modern (inorganic) weed farmers, as well as the issue of the country's government's new repressive policy. It is a valuable source as the site is well-known for giving unbiased and unvarnished reports on controversial matters, with the article effectively shedding light on the weed growing culture in Amsterdam today. It highlights the fact that many of the coffeeshops are supplied by illegal growers and criminal producers, due to the aforementioned weed repressive policy.

#2 This article discusses the Dutch laws on marijuana, stating that the possession of below 5 grams of weed will not lead to prosecution. It also sheds lights on controversial issues in Amsterdam, and the Dutch history with weed. This article provides a brief yet educational overview on the marijuana laws and other red light district matter of Amsterdam.

This graph provides statistics that correlate with the Dutch government's logic. The harsh restrictions on marijuana in the US lead to a rise in illegal activities. In the Netherlands, many people get bored of the high, with a fair amount of experimenting youths develop their drug tendencies to carry them into adulthood.

As discussed in this article, part of the reason why the Dutch policymakers decided to legalize marijuana was because they thought that the population was going to do drugs regardless of laws, and that forcing them to turn to the illicit purchase of marijuana would put them in contact with dealers who also handled harder drugs. This logic is not flawed, with evidence from other studies supporting this with data such as 52% of Swedish marijuana users reporting that a variety of drugs are available from their usual marijuana source. In the Netherlands, only 14% of marijuana users reporting this. This is because a vast majority of marijuana users user marijuana in coffeeshops. As these coffeeshops grew in quantity, drug users became less likely to buy other drugs from their cannabis sources.

#3 This article talks about the weed tolerance in Amsterdam, as well as showcasing the ties between drug usage in Colorado and Amsterdam, featuring interviews with mayors and other officials of Amsterdam. I found this website useful as it provided insight into drug usage in Europe vs the US, and a few of the Dutch official's views on the drug.

Legal parameters This website defines and details the legal parameters surrounding drug usage in Amsterdam, with a stream of up-to-date information on the most recent drug policies in Amsterdam.

As with every government, the Dutch government wants to mitigate the usage of extremely dangerous, or 'hard' drugs, because drugs are dangerous. <Hard/soft drugs> This source clearly explains the difference between the terms 'hard' and 'soft' drugs.The author defines and lays down all these margins, as well as providing information on the law vs the official policies and tolerance. Because of this, the government concluded that these two different classes of drugs should be treated differently. According to this website, this is known as a separation of markets.


There are 220 legally registered coffeehouses in Amsterdam.

Coffeehouses, due to newly placed restrictive bans, are not allowed to be open during school hours, and cannot be situated more than 250 meters from a school.

The top three most popular drugs in Amsterdam, according to a sample survey conducted on 15 - 34 year olds living in Amsterdam, are:

- marijuana, with 36.8% of respondents reported having tried it at least once

- ecstasy, with 11.6% of respondents reported having tried it at least once

- cocaine, with 7.6% of respondents reported having tried it at least once

Despite having the most publicized drug culture in Europe, the Netherlands have one of the lowest rate of drug-related deaths on the continent. In 1996, there were just 2.4 drug-induced deaths in the Netherlands. In France there were 9.5, in Germany there were 20, Sweden had 23.5 and in Spain there were 27.1 deaths. In 1995, the Dutch figures for deaths caused by drugs were the lowest in Europe. (Read more here). In 2012, the amount of drug-induced deaths among adults (aged 15–64 years) was 10.2 deaths per million, lower than the European average of 17.1 deaths per million. In the United Kingdom, it was more than double the European average, at 38.3 deaths per million. In Spain, it was 11.7 deaths per million. This, coupled with other factors that amount to problem drug use, puts the Netherlands at the forefront of mitigating problem drug use in Europe.

And though the police force is always actively searching for offenders of the law, their job is (statistically speaking) easier than their British and American counterparts, with fewer arrests being made for drug offences. In the US, every 42 seconds, a person is arrested for marijuana possession. In comparison, in the UK, there are 206 arrests made per 100,000 citizens, in France there are 225, but in the Netherlands there are only 19.

The drugs have a positive effect on the city. The coffeeshops add to the authenticity of the city, which pulls in over 4.5 million tourists per year, 26% of these tourists visiting at least one coffeehouse. As mentioned above, addiction into adulthood is not as common in the Netherlands as it is internationally. Dutch citizens have reportedly lower usage rates of marijuana than their fellow European countries. Healthwise, drugs are not usually healthy, but the widespread use of marijuana has mitigated the use of injectable drugs such as heroin, which in turn has helped the Netherlands to maintain a relatively low HIV rate amongst the drug-using community.

Map of Amsterdam (data set):

Through the examination and analysis of these two maps, as well as a quick cross-analysis of the two, I am able to conclude that the Red Light district is the location of the majority of the coffeeshops, and that this could be because smoking, while casual, is something the government and the citizens of Amsterdam want to limit to an area where they put the rest of the city's explicit stores.

Anne Frank lived very close to the Red Light district, and there are many coffeeshops surrounding the Anne Frank House museum.

Relevant media:

Amsterdam A documentary "Government Crackdown on Marijuana in the Netherlands". Interesting and extremely informative on the entire weed legal situation in the Netherlands.

Below is an image of Doede Van Jung, an important figure for all those involved in the weed industry. He is one of the last public weed growers, and is an activist for weed grower rights. He has been prosecuted multiple times but states that he has to be resilient as he feels that by giving in he, as  the last championed figure of the weed-smoking Dutch population, will have failed in his duties to speak out against the laws concerning weed that are growing more and more restrictive.

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