In an effort to control the rise of organized crime in the city, Amsterdam officials announced Saturday that they intend to close brothels, marijuana cafes, and other businesses in selected parts of the city.
According to BBC news, the efforts would reduce the current number of 482 sex windows to a remaining 243, as well as closing all but approximately 30 cafes that offer marijuana. The remaining brothels will primarily centered in the De Wallen (“The Walls”) district, an area the Associate Press reports has been a center for prostitution since the 1600’s.
Prostitution has been legal in Amsterdam since 2000 and was informally tolerated long before that. Although marijuana is not entirely legal, citizens are permitted to carry small amounts of the substance and cafes are allowed to permit it. Many of these cafes also sold psilocybin mushrooms commonly called ‘magic mushrooms’ until they were scheduled as an illegal substance in late 2007. They also stopped drug testing goverment employees.
Deputy mayor Lodewijk Asscher stressed to the Associated Press that these measures are being taken to fight the tide of organized crime in the city:
“I think the new reality will be more in line with our image as a tolerant and crazy place,” said Ashker, “rather than a free zone for criminals.”
Left unchecked, Asscher goes on to say that prostitution attracts a number of criminal enterprises that damages the city and its citizens, such as money laundering, extortion, and human trafficking, according to an article in Reuters. Many of the marijuana cafes being closed are due to new regulations prohibiting such businesses from operating within a given distance schools.
“We can still have sex and drugs but in a way that shows the city is in control,” said Ashker.
According to United Press International, sex workers in Amsterdam aren’t planning on taking the new ordinances sitting down:
‘This is an assault on modern values and has nothing to do with cleaning up the city’ one unnamed activist commented. ‘We will oppose this and offer all assistance to the women affected by this regressive plan. We know the girls of De Wallen and we are aware of their inner strength. Many people oppose this, some are also worried about Amsterdam’s tourist industry going up in smoke.’