After an only-in-the-Netherlands legal reverse, the city of Amsterdam said Wednesday it will likely have to stub out the “no toking” signs it introduced in a crackdown on marijuana-smoking youth.
The Dutch government’s top legal adviser ruled that the city had no right to establish official zones where smoking weed is banned, since it’s already theoretically illegal in the Netherlands.
In practice, possession of small amounts of the drug is allowed, and it is sold openly in designated shops.
When the policy was introduced in 2007, the city put up signs to declare the “no toking” zones. The signs portrayed cone-shaped cigarette being rolled, with little marijuana leaves in the background – inside a bold red circle. They were stolen so often as collectors’ items the city opened its own merchandise line and began offering them itself for euro90 ($125) apiece.
City spokeswoman Iris Reshef acknowledged Wednesday’s ruling likely means the signs must go, but she noted it specified the city can still issue fines to young smokers who cause problems.
“The measures we have taken can remain in place,” Reshef said. “Just the signs cannot be there.”
The signs were originally hung up around an area of one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, called “De Baarsjes,” but residents in a wealthier part of the city also wanted to use the signs, leading to the case being sent to the Council of State.
Since the Amsterdam policy was introduced, other towns and cities have also introduced “no toking” zones.
Amsterdam has long had an image as a freewheeling haven for pot smokers because of its numerous “coffee shops” where marijuana is sold and smoked by locals and tourists alike.
The national government also is chipping away at the Netherlands’ long-standing tolerance toward cannabis with measures including a plan to make coffee shops members-only clubs only open to Dutch residents.