THE HAGUE – Amsterdam city authorities said on Friday they are banning cannabis smoking in the streets of the red light district from mid-May as part of efforts to curb criminality and anti-social behaviour.

The measure comes amid wider efforts to restrict drinking hours and bring forward closing times of cafes, bars, restaurants and brothels, as the municipality cracks down on a “huge anti-social behaviour” problem.

Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands and Amsterdam’s city centre brothels rank as a tourist attraction.

But rising urban crime in part of town which is a magnet for youthful night owls has for some years led police to label the area a “square kilometre of misery”.

Under Dutch law, the sale of cannabis is tolerated in coffee shops, as long as they abide by strict conditions but it is an offence to possess, sell or produce more than five grams of the drug.

Residents are “very upset at mass tourism and abuse of alcohol and drugs in the street,” particularly at night, the municipality statement explained.

“Tourists equally attract street dealers which leads to criminality and insecurity,” the statement added.

If the latest restrictions fail to have the desired effect authorities warn they will extend them to coffee shop terraces. AFP