Amsterdam's relaxed policy towards the legal availability of high quality weed and hash is common knowledge all over the world. but the word coffeeshop in Amsterdam means something totally different to what coffee shop means in any other country around the world. The Dutch join the two words together (coffeeshop) and it takes on an entire new meaning. A coffeeshop in Amsterdam is not just your average coffee shop.
These places vary in size and style but not all sell coffee even though most have coffee for sale as their primary purpose is the selling of cannabis & hash. All of them are licensed by the Amsterdam city council and subject to numerous regulations and more so all the time, latest one being a coffee shop cannot advertise including having a website though some still have them but without much information on them the rest have removed there sites.
To gain entry to a coffeeshop you must be a minimum 18 years old and you must produce ID even if your not buying drugs so you can stay on the premises.
There are at present around some 300 licensed coffeeshops in Amsterdam but the number is half what it was 10 years ago and the 70 odd bar / coffeeshops which sold alcohol and cannabis known as cannabis cafes are almost all gone with one or two only left and very soon they must also decide if they are a bar or a coffeeshop, new law says they cannot be both. Remaining ones are Nescafe in Nes lane off Dam Square and the Dampkring where Oceans eleven was filmed. See their site here http://www.xs4all.nl/~dampweb/ (Not a lot of info on Site)
Amsterdam Coffee Shop - The basics
If it's your first time in a Amsterdam and you want to go into a coffeeshop don't be shy or scared. it's just like walking into a regular shop. Just walk up to the counter and ask for a menu which will include a variety of cannabis buds and hash, ranging in quality from OK to incredible. Feel free to ask questions, the staff in most places are quite friendly but some are as rude as hell. Most will give you a loan of a pipe or bong to use. Rolling papers and filter tips are available as well, usually at the counter.
The average price of a small bag (1 gram) runs approximately Euro 6-8. For you Americans that have no idea what a gram is, a "dime bag" is typically about half a gram. Some places offer pre-rolled joints of pure grass for around Euro 7 or grass and hash joints mixed with tobacco Euro 3-4.
You are allowed to bring grass from one Coffeeshop to another as long as you purchase something to drink in each coffeeshop. Smoking outside on the terraces is now Not allowed by some owners and smoking in public is generally O.K. just don't be blatant about it.
Smoking grass in other bars and places is a "no no", The staff will quickly inform you to put the joint out.
A few coffee shops still sell space-cake. They can come in the form of cookies, brownies or a slice of cake with hash or bud in them or a cup of special tea made with cannabis. Unfortunately the government is also trying to stop this as well because of the imprecise and inconsistent THC content of cake found at some careless shops. The best cake available can be found at BASJOE coffee shop know as Rainbow cake because of the colour's which run through each slice. Cake is home made by James and tastes delicious, problem is you will want another slice but a little word of warning, do not go crazy, give the 1st slice time to work. If can pack quite a punch but it may not really hit you for an hour or two so if you eat 2 slices you will be totally f....d
When you enter most coffeeshops just go up to the bar and ask to see the 'menu'. You will be presented with a list of the various different grasses and hashes available at a range of prices. Some coffeeshops have a dealer's booth which is usually separate from the main counter.
Most shops sell by weight, in others by the bag. Where it is sold by weight the prices are per gram. There are 28 grams in an ounce (The Gray Area, which is run by an American dude will actually sell 'quarters' and 'eighths' if you want). Where it is sold by value, the menu will show the quantity, in grams, that you'll get of each variety for a fixed price of, say, 20 euros.
A maximum of 5 grams per sale is allowed. You will NOT be sold more than this amount so do not bother asking. They are scared of loosing there licence if they are caught.
Silver Haze € 7-8 per gram.
The 500 gram stock regulation is used by the authorities as a excuse for the ever increasing raids on the coffee shops to keep an eye on them. When they do raid they come in force, loads of police and dogs. They seal off the shop letting no one leave or enter, even off the terrac
I dream of the day when coffeeshops here are as progressive. Starbucks has recently started selling liquor; can cannabis be far behind? One can only hope.
Friday 27th June 2008
The marijuana bars of Amsterdam have survived many legal challenges but may finally have met their match in health and safety laws.
From next Tuesday the Netherlands becomes the latest European country to comply with EU law and ban smoking in bars and restaurants.
The Health Ministry has made it clear the ban will apply to cafes that sell marijuana, known as coffee shops.
But supporters are hoping to exploit a loophole: the ban covers tobacco but not marijuana, which is technically illegal anyway.
That still leaves coffee shops and their customers with a problem. Marijuana users traditionally smoke pot in fat cone-shaped joints mixed with tobacco.
Shops are scrambling to adapt. One alternative is "vaporiser" machines, which incinerate the drug smokelessly. Another scheme is replacing tobacco with herbs like coltsfoot, a common plant similar to a dandelion in appearance that smokers describe as tasting a bit like oregano.
But most are just planning to increase their sales of hash brownies and pure weed - and hope the law is not enforced.
Michael Veling, owner of the 4-20 Cafe and a board member of the Cannabis Retailers' Union, said he expected a small decline in sales as smokers are forced to separate their nicotine addiction from their marijuana habit.
But he expects the long-term effects to be minimal. "It's absurd to say that coffee shops will go bankrupt in the second week of July. Nonsense."
Mr Veling is instructing his staff to send tobacco smokers outside, but he does not expect all coffee shops to do the same. He said some owners will ignore the ban - and probably get away with it, at least for a while.
But "if obeying the smoking ban becomes a condition of renewing your business license, just watch how fast it will happen," he said. "That's the way things work."
Jason den Enting, manager of coffee shop Dampkring, said it would be impossible to monitor what customers are smoking.
"It's the world upside down: In other countries they look for the marijuana in the cigarette. Here they look for the cigarette in the marijuana."
Chris Krikken, spokesman for the Food and Wares Authority, charged with enforcing the ban, said his agency will not be targeting coffee shops in particular.
"For the first month we'll just be gathering information about compliance in a wide range of hospitality businesses. Depending on what we find, we may focus more squarely on a sector that's lagging."
But he said individual businesses caught allowing customers to smoke will be warned and definitely checked again. "Repeat offenders will face escalating fines," he said.
Marijuana possession is illegal in the Netherlands, but smokers are not prosecuted for holding up to 5 grammes. Around 750 cafes - half of them in Amsterdam - are licensed to have up to 500 grammes in stock at any one time.
The Dutch "tolerance" policy is a pragmatic recognition that people will smoke pot regardless of laws, so it might as well happen in an orderly way. Critics complain this encourages substance abuse.
But the use of cannabis in Holland ranks somewhere in the middle of international norms: higher than in neighbouring Germany but lower than in France, England and the US.
The Dutch government, currently led by a conservative coalition with a religious bent, is slowly squeezing back the number of coffee shops by not renewing licences when shops close.
Growers are arrested, leaving coffee shop owners struggling to obtain their main product.
"The rules are being set to pester us out of business one by one, slowly but surely," said Richard van Velthoven, manager at The Greenhouse, who said he feared being shut down for tobacco violations.
"I've taken the cigarette machines out, I'm putting Coltsfoot on the tables, I've bought extra vaporisers, the staff is watching out - what more can I do?"
Another fine example of prohibition creating crime...
ROTTERDAM, Netherlands—Fire up a joint in the Netherlands? No big deal. Grow marijuana? That's a crime. Getting smoked: the nation's power companies.
Volt-hungry pot farms have been stealing hundreds of millions of dollars of electricity a year. The problem has gotten so bad that one firm has blown a fuse. Stedin Netbeheer BV, a grid operator with 1.8 million customers, is now sending employees on raids with armed police officers, using sophisticated grid analysis to unearth pot plantations.
Last month, it launched an anonymous hot line and mailed out 30,000 scratch-and-sniff cards that smell like fresh cannabis. "People have this image of a nice hippie smoking," says Wolter Meijer, the company's top antifraud official. "The reality is danger and crime."
Growing weed indoors requires water, carbon-dioxide generators and intense light and heat, which leads to hundreds of accidental fires a year. Heavy electricity use is a big red flag for investigators, so cultivators try to avoid detection by tapping into the grid before the meter. That costs Stedin $15 million a year.
It's all part of the country's dissonant attitude toward marijuana. On paper, it's illegal to smoke, buy, sell or grow pot. But the ban on smoking hasn't been enforced since 1976, and coffee shops are licensed to sell small quantities. The paradox puzzles even Dutch law enforcement. "You can smoke it, but you can't grow it," says Erik de Borst, the nation's top anticannabis official. "Where are you supposed to get it?"
From all over Holland, it turns out. There are an estimated 40,000 marijuana plantations in the country. Every year, 5,000 are destroyed, and 5,000 pop back up, police say.
The coffee shops are allowed to stock only 500 grams, so they need frequent resupplies. "The authorities would love to know where we get our weed," said Myriam Kobus, as she oversaw smokers lining up for "White Widow," a popular strain, at the Game, a coffee shop she manages in The Hague. "We don't tell them."
Police say most suppliers are gangs that carve up production, often among lower-income citizens who get paid to turn their residences into grow houses. A batch of 200 plants can be harvested five times a year, with each crop generating $30,000.
Growers are supplying more than the home market. Dutch marijuana goes out by ship and by highway all over Europe, says Peter Reuter, an expert on drug policy at the University of Maryland. The Netherlands produces $3 billion a year, 90% of which is exported, the police estimate.
Pot farms turn up in villas, tomato greenhouses and working-class flats. One gang in Rotterdam has used six trucks as mobile farms, with one batch always ready for selling and smoking, police say. Pot has been found growing in shipping containers buried under swimming pools.
It keeps Mr. Meijer's team of 32 at Stedin busy. They're on the lookout for eight-hour spikes in power use, corresponding to heat-lamp patterns, and for outside air filters, convoluted wiring and roofs that quickly melt snow.
The company first held talks with police in 2004 and has worked increasingly closely with authorities since then.
This year, Mr. Meijer sent out the scented cards and asked customers for help. "We wouldn't ask people to spy," he says. "Just sniff on this card, and if you smell that in your neighborhood, give us a call, and we'll do the rest."
Mr. de Borst, the antidrug official, helped make it happen. Police petitioned the district attorney in Rotterdam for the right to distill 40 kilograms of hemp, seized during a raid, into 50 centiliters of oil. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, was removed. They found a printer in France to make the cards and secured exemptions from French and Belgian customs.
The 30,000 pamphlets were posted in early November. If the campaign works, it will be rolled out for the whole country.
Loek de Lange, a spokesman for Enexis BV, another grid operator, says his company also works with police, but not as closely as Stedin. "It's a problem for all power companies, and we have to fight together, with the police," he says.
Stedin's anonymous hot line receives one tip per day, on average. Each is investigated, "even if we know it's probably somebody smoking or neighbors who don't like each other," says Mr. Meijer.
On a recent day, two teams set out in unmarked cars from Stedin's headquarters in this port city. Gangs frequently protect their plantations with booby traps, including electrified doors, holes covered by doormats and paint-ball grenades.
John Mulder, a safety inspector for the city, pointed a hand-held heat camera at each suspect home. A dark concentration of heat in an attic is a good clue, he said, "but it can also be a washing machine."
They knocked on doors, checking up on tips called in by neighbors who thought they had smelled something. One middle-age occupant, Younes Kamel, said simply: "I smoke joints." The investigators nodded and left.
Just before noon, one of the teams struck gold at a three-story brick row house. It was unoccupied, so police knocked down the door. Each room on the second and third floors contained more than 100 flower pots brimming with rich, black soil. Marijuana had just been harvested. A trash bag stuffed with stems lay in the front room, near a punching bag.
A panel in a side corridor held transformers and wires to run the lamps. Stedin technicians dismantled it.
A new conservative government, which won elections on a law-and-order platform, wants to shut many of the country's 700 coffee shops and 400 "grow" shops, which legally sell equipment needed to farm hemp.
Advocates are putting up a fight. "It's making marijuana illegal that causes crime and violence," says Fredrick Polak, an Amsterdam psychiatrist who says he smokes a joint every other day. "During prohibition, people weren't killing each other because they were drunk, it was because they had to become criminals."
"It's a good business," says Ms. Kobus, the coffee-shop manager, who says her store takes in several thousand euros a day. "Pot is here to stay."
Write to John W. Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org
can cannabis be far behind? One can only hope. -Carla
Not if the U.S. and her 'allies' can help it.
That was quite interesting Katii!
I thought so too, Elizabeth
I just don't understand why it's so hard for so many Americans to understand that prohibition creates black markets, and crimes, and criminals where there were none before the prohibition. Supposedly we have 'progressed' socially and intellectually since the days of alcohol prohibition so why were people smarter back then, to repeal prohibition, than they are today?
I guess alcohol was such a mainstream part of society before prohibition, whereas marijuana, especially at the time its prohibition started, has always been made to look much more dangerous.
I'd like to hang out at one of the coffeeshops in Amsterdam sometime, though i've never smoked marijuana much. I was in Amsterdam about 12 years ago (only place i've been in Europe) but the friends i was with weren't into smoking so i didn't end up going into one. And i never saw anyone smoking pot and remember reading that it was frowned upon doing so in public.