While restaurants, bars and pubs in the Netherlands have repeatedly been subject to strict lockdown measures, cannabis cafes have reported an increase in revenue since the start of the pandemic.
The first government-enforced lockdown in the Netherlands resulted in a “weed panic”, with long lines for coffee shops or cannabis cafes.
Despite restrictions on public gatherings and travel, the stores have been able to achieve or in some cases increase their turnover when they are not under pressure from, for example, the mayor of Amsterdam.
In addition, it was also reported that coffee shops in The Hague, where the Dutch parliament sits, are doing well.
This is almost only because, while others in the hospitality industry had some sort of restrictions, the coffee shops were able to stay open and offer their products under the takeaway banner.
A recently published study found that 90% of Dutch cannabis users have smoked the same amount or more since the start of the pandemic and that three quarters smoke every day.
In a country where the recreational use of cannabis has been adopted into the culture for decades, it should come as no surprise that the industry has managed to thrive.
Drug use historian Stephen Snelders suggests that people had a good reason for taking a joint: they wanted to find a way to deal with the fear exacerbated by the pandemic. He said: “So it's not about people who want to get high, to escape. It's more of a way of dealing with everyday anxiety.”
While the coffee shops in a number of major Dutch cities are part of the cityscape, Amsterdam could be the very first to ban foreign tourists from accessing the locations. Recent reports suggest the measure could be introduced to clear the streets of 'massive, low-budget tourism'.
Possible Amsterdam ban on coffee shops
De Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema claimed:
“Amsterdam is an international city, and we want to attract tourists, but we want them to come because of its wealth, beauty and cultural institutions. Coffee shops, especially in the center, rely largely on tourists. With the increase in tourism, demand has only increased and hard drug crime has arisen.”
The plan has sparked a stir among business owners, who claim they are already suffering from declining numbers of tourists visiting the city due to the pandemic measures.
An employee of Barney's Coffeeshop said a few weeks ago:
“It has certainly been a quiet year. Obviously it's better compared to last summer with the coronavirus, but this year started to get busy, but it's still nothing compared to the years before. Only mainly French and German tourists have come, not many English or Italians anymore.”