A young man with a joint in his left hand jokes with the photographer as he passes a sign prohibiting the use of marijuana and alcohol, in a designated area in Amsterdam on Wednesday. The city's mayor says students would be formally banned from smoking marijuana at school as of Jan. 1, 2013.
Sorry, kids: No more smoking joints on the playground in Amsterdam anymore. This New Year brings new enforced rules on marijuana in the Dutch capital.
Technically, smoking marijuana was never allowed in or around schools, but there was no official way to fully implement the policy – until now. Starting Jan. 1, schools and playgrounds will be deemed "no toking zones" and those who disobey the new ruling face being fined by the police.
"It's not really what you have in mind as an educator, that children would be turning up for class stoned, or drunk either for that matter," Iris Reshef, a spokeswoman for the city, told The Associated Press. "But it has been a problem for some schools."
While cannabis is theoretically against the law in the Netherlands, under a "tolerance" principle there's nothing illegal with possessing small amounts. Amsterdam's relaxed drug policy stems from the belief that decriminalizing "soft drugs" will lead to more efficient government regulation and foster safer drug use.
Dutch drug laws starkly contrast that of most countries, including the U.S., though recently, both Washington state and Colorado legalized recreational marijuana use in small amounts.
Recently, following intense public backlash, Amsterdam dropped a potential law banning foreigners from buying marijuana. The law would have turned Amsterdam's infamous coffee shops – where different types of marijuana are often listed on menus — into private clubs, only granting a weed pass to legal residents. Officials feared that if bans were put in place, tourists would turn to buying drugs off the streets.
For now, Amsterdam still remains the "cannabis capital" of the world – just keep that purple haze away from the little Amsterdammers.
(Sophia Jones is an intern with NPR News.)