Lonely Planet Writer

If Amsterdam's hash bars closed, would you still go?

Think quick: Amsterdam! What’s the first thing you think?

Don’t lie. It’s the hash bars. The Netherlands’ infamously lax policy regarding small amounts of cannabis is so legendary that the whole national economy would fall flat without it (or at least it wouldn’t have attracted John Travolta’s character from Pulp Fiction, or prompted articles like this). News came today that new legislation may prohibit hash to any non-residents, and that all drugs could be gone by the end of 2013.

That led to some wild laments via Twitter. Like this:

@reidontravel if Amsterdam passes that law, they can kiss their tourism econ goodbye, then wonder why drug crime goes up #StatingtheObvious

— David Perlmutter (@SFGeoNinja) April 3, 2012

And this rebuttal:

@reidontravel The business student’s view, that Amsterdam will die w/out cannabis, is myopic. So much more to the NL than coffeeshops!

— Amber DeGrace (@amberdegrace) April 3, 2012

I agree with Amber, Amsterdam is one of Europe’s best walking and biking cities for one. Though the same New York Times article does acknowledge about one million visitors to Amsterdam a year (25%) do partake in a toke or two.

IF it happens, and it probably won’t, there are options like canal rides, cycling, the outdoor markets and Rijksmuseum. Lonely Planet’s Amsterdam author Karla Zimmerman‘s favorite experience there is found far more cleanly. She writes:

“I love walking around Prinsengracht in the morning. Houseboats bob, bike bells cling cling, flower sellers lay out their wares. The old merchants houses tilt at impossible angles, and it’s easy to imagine an era when boats unloaded spices out front.”

Would you still go?

Lonely Planet’s US Travel Editor Robert Reid seriously didn’t try any weed in Amsterdam, but was devastatingly beaten in foosball by snickering locals in a bar.