I have heard it's not legal starting from 2013. I also heard they postponed applying this?

So what's the deal? Allowed or not?

  • 19
    BTW. it never was legal. It's illegal, but not prosecuted.
    – vartec
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 10:35
  • 3
    @vartec Well, that sounds legal enough ;) Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 16:22
  • 2
    I just left Amsterdam 2 days ago and as of May 2013, weed is extremely "tolerated." Currently as a foreigner you can go into any coffee shop and buy up to 5g and a nice cup of tea to sit and enjoy. Amsterdam Questions Answered - Weed and Prostitution
    – user6740
    Commented May 14, 2013 at 8:18
  • 3
    Really it's a little more than that. Illegal but not prosecuted is the way it is in Germany (per decision of the federal constitutional court) and many other countries (often with a great latitude left to individual police officers). In the Netherlands, there is indeed a statute forbidding cannabis in principle but there are also official instructions (aanwijzing) from the public prosecution service explicitly allowing the trade soft drugs under certain conditions and towns issue licenses for coffeeshops. That should count for something in understanding what is “legal”.
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 14, 2013 at 22:04
  • 1
    While weed is tolerated under conditions it is NOT legal, whatever it looks like to foreigners. There is a big difference.
    – Willeke
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 18:04

2 Answers 2


It has always been illegal and people have been arrested for smoking it in the open. I always love the faces of the tourists being arrested at Schiphol airport or in front of the Central station in Amsterdam for smoking weed. It is a global misconception that in Amsterdam it is as free as smoking cigarettes on the street. The principle has always been, what is called "Gedogen", which means that it is tolerated as long as you don't use it in the open and don't create annoyances. It is the Dutch way of dealing with social problems. It is similar to the so-called "afwerkplekken" for street prostitution. These are designated area's where street prostitution is tolerated. When ever there is a social problem that is hard to eradicate, the Dutch approach is encapsulate it in known zones, relieving other area's from problems related to that social problem.

In the seventies the Dutch government introduced so called "coffeeshops", which are designated establishments where cannabis use is tolerated. Again recognize the difference between tolerated and allowed.

What has changed recently is the legal status for these coffeeshops. They are now only allowed as a member-only organization for local residents. To get access to a coffeeshop you need to register as a member providing proof you live in the same city. The change of this regulation was guided by the pressure from Belgium and Germany. Border cities like Maastricht, Roosendaal, Terneuzen were like magnets to weed smokers from France, Belgium and Germany, causing problems in those cities and the surrounding countries. This was the reason behind introducing the member-only requirement for coffeeshops. This is also why the weed-pass as it is informally called was first introduced in the border regions and later imposed on other cities like Amsterdam. As Mark already said, again some cities like Amsterdam chose not to spent resources on enforcing this. Border cities did introduce the legislation to require the member-only status of coffeeshops, with the effect that most coffeeshops did close.


The law making it illegal, for foreigners, DID come in, and still stands.

However, due to all the controversy, it's changed now and is up to each city to decide how to apply it.

As a result, "coffee shops are OPEN in Amsterdam".

For a great read on the reasons behind the law, the effect, and the changes to the tourism industry as a result, have a read of Haze clears over Dutch cannabis law.

Other news articles as well indicate that:

The mayor of Amsterdam has made it clear that tourists there would still be granted access.

  • 7
    do remember that it's still technically illegal to sell and buy the stuff, but not to poses it (in small quantities, I think 5 grams max). The cities involved just have decided to not spend police resources to search and arrest people for dealing in soft drugs unless other crimes are involved as well.
    – jwenting
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 10:15
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    It used to be 4 grams and I don't think they changed it. However, the police won't care, unless they think you carry enough for it to become sales quantities. The law is kinda sketchy about the legality of coffeeshops. They where 'allowed' to sell the stuff, but not allowed to buy it from their suppliers (with police actively trying to catch growers). However, now, for the first time, the Dutch goverment passed a law that actively regulates coffeeshops. Lawyers are still debating if this new law, as a side effect, officially legalized the sales of softdrugs by coffee shops.
    – Jacco
    Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 11:39
  • 1
    5g seems right, cf. zoek.officielebekendmakingen.nl/stcrt-2011-22936-n1.html
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 14, 2013 at 22:08

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