The Hague, Apr 17 (AFP) The Hague has become the first city in the Netherlands to ban cannabis smoking from downtown areas following numerous complaints by fed-up residents.

Since last week “it’s illegal to use soft drugs at 13 public spaces,” the city said in an online statement seen by AFP today.

The ban “to fight nuisance” includes the bustling city centre, the Hague’s main train stations and shopping streets, it said.

“During the last few years the city council has received numerous complaints about the smell and noise caused by joint-smoking people,” it added.

Police will enforce the ban with an undisclosed fine, but until the end of April offending smokers will be let off with a warning “to get used to the new measure.” The city, the seat of the Dutch government, and police will also start an information campaign and distribute leaflets at cannabis cafes, hotels and hostels. An English version for tourists will also be available.

The Netherlands in 1976 decriminalised the sale of small amounts of cannabis — less than five grammes (less than 0.2 ounces) — and a person is allowed to grow five plants for personal use.

Wholesale marijuana cultivation and retail sales, which is mainly controlled by criminal gangs, are prohibited.

In recent years, politicians have pushed back against the tolerant policies adopted in the 1970s, including closing down the country’s notorious cannabis coffee shops.

The country’s top legislative court, the Council of State, in November gave Amsterdam the green light to reduce the hours that cannabis cafes are allowed to do business near schools. (AFP) IJT

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.