The majority of its visitors believe Amsterdam is a place where everything is allowed. Certainly when it comes to buying and using weed, that is. Though the Dutch cannabis policy is less tolerant than you might think. As we’ll explain in part 1 of our series ‘Cannabis Tolerance’: Buying Weed In Amsterdam.
Weed Is Illegal?
Amsterdam has been the epicenter of cannabis use in Europe for decades. Although Barcelona is slowly taking over this position on the European continent, the Dutch capitol is still considered one of the best places to go if you’re looking to get high. With (nowadays 167) different coffeeshops offering a wide variety of weed flowers and hashish – to both locals and an ever increasing amount of tourists from all over the world. It is safe to say Amsterdam is widely known as an utopia for cannabis users worldwide.
Though it is a common misconception that this much enjoyed cannabis is completely legal in the Netherlands. That’s right, although the weed sold in coffeeshops might have you thinking otherwise, cannabis remains illegal in the popular cannabis-holiday destination. So how comes you are still able to select your favorite strain from coffeeshop menus, when you visit the Ganja-walhalla?
Cannabis as a recreational drug gained popularity in the Netherlands in the 50’s-60’s, as it did in lots of other parts of the world. Although weed was already being used in certain parts of society, it wasn’t really socially accepted until the 70’s. When not only ‘the colored’ (as stated by media in that time) but also ‘artistic youngsters from higher circles’ started using the herb in teahouses and coffee shops. With that, came a positive sound from a large group of academics supporting the legalization of drugs. Carrying cannabis as a priority.
Luckily for us, repression wasn’t trending then like it is now; and politicians still listened to critics that mattered. So Dutch policymakers gave birth to our controversial ‘Tolerance Policy’: het Gedoogbeleid. A policy that legalized the sale of cannabis under certain conditions, but (until now) lacks regulation on the purchase and cultivation of cannabis. Causing a crooked, and painfully risky set of rules for entrepreneurs to follow if they do not want to risk their coffeeshop license.
Consumers are free to walk into any coffeeshop and purchase their cannabis, with a ridiculous max. of 5 grams per customer per day. As long as they’re over 18 years old, of course. Although these coffeeshops officially can’t purchase these products. How weird it may sound, it’s true. Coffeeshops in the Netherlands can’t legally purchase the products they can stock and legally sell to their customers.
Furthermore, they aren’t even allowed to stock more than 500 grams of weed, hash and cannabis in spacecakes at any given moment. As most coffeeshops offer multiple strains – which they obviously don’t want to run out of – they turn to a ‘backdoor’, if you will. Where weed and hash ‘magically appear’ throughout the day, to keep stocks up and customers happy. Considering a coffeeshop sells anywhere between 500 – 1.500 grams of weed a day, you can imagine the logistic hassle.
Another crazy rule threatening the future of many coffeeshops, is ‘het afstandscriterium’. This ‘distance criterion’ (literally translated) states that coffeeshops can’t be located within 250 meters of a school. A rule that single handedly brought the amount of active coffeeshops down from 846 to approximately 560 in the Netherlands. With 167 of them situated in Amsterdam, there’s not a lot left for the rest of the country to share. It was also this rule that closed down Amsterdam’s first coffeeshop, Mellow Yellow. As if closing down coffeeshops near schools in a city like Amsterdam would prevent the youth from ever seeing a joint…
Concentrates In Amsterdam
If you’re planning to ‘dab’ some Wax or BHO from one of Amsterdam’s best coffeeshops, you’re out of luck. As coffeeshops are also prohibited the sales of this type of ‘hard drug’. Indeed, the Dutch government considers cannabis concentrates List A or Schedule I substances.
Cannabis concentrates like hashish and isolator are only allowed in coffeeshops if there is some plant matter left in the sample. If it comes out totally clean, like how you would want a dabbable concentrate, it is considered a harddrug. So the cleanest extracts you will legally find in Dutch coffeeshops are Rosin and Isolator.
In part 2 of this series, we’ll dive into the rules regarding cultivating and processing cannabis in the Netherlands. After all, growing your own is one of the best ways to ensure you have enough clean cannabis to consume.