Published: February 15th, 2017
Categories: Cannabis Info
The city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands has become renown around the world for its special type of coffee shops, ones that sell marijuana and allow customers to consume their weed inside whilst enjoying a meal or a well-made coffee. When walking into one of these many establishments you can expect to see a bar, similar in appearance to ones that usually sell alcohol. Behind these bars are large menus displaying the range of cannabis sold there, along with details about that particular stain such as type, strength, taste and smell. Alongside each strain will be its price in Euro, depending on the quantity bought.
With a set up like this it would be reasonable to assume, that weed is completely legal in Amsterdam. Well, the legality of cannabis in Amsterdam is not exactly black and white, in fact the line is rather blurry. Also, those of you who like to add some tobacco to your joints might be somewhat surprised when a waitress approaches your table and asks you to remove your cannabis from plain sight.
Despite the presence of many different coffee shops, that make a fortune from tourists by selling cannabis, it may surprise you, that it is technically illegal to sell cannabis in Amsterdam. The Dutch government has divided the spectrum of drugs into two categories based on their effects. These categories are hard drugs and soft drugs. Hard drugs include substances such as cocaine and heroin and are forbidden in the country, much like in the rest of the world. Weed and hash fall into the category of soft drugs. These substances are tolerated by the Dutch government.
This tolerance has led to a rather complicated situation when it comes to businesses selling cannabis to make a profit. Coffee shops are allowed to sell cannabis, and taxes paid by these companies serve as an indication of how much is being sold. It is also legal to smoke cannabis in Amsterdam, so this tolerance allows those locals or tourists who have made the personal choice to smoke to gain access to quality weed, without having to fund black markets and potential criminals. This has resulted in an improved crime rate.
So that part doesn’t seem too complex. But what is slightly more confusing, is that people who wish to supply coffee shops with cannabis are actually breaking the law at just about every point of the flow of production. Planting and cultivating cannabis on a large scale is illegal in the eyes of Dutch law. The selling of this crop to businesses, that run coffee shops is also deemed illegal. However, once the coffee shops make the deal and are in possession of the weed, they can the sell it.
Driving whilst under the influence of cannabis is considered a serious offense and is considered just as serious as driving whilst drunk.
Restrictions also exist the the quantities, that can be possessed and bought. Coffee shops are allowed to sell up to 5g of herb to a customer per day. However, this would not stop a tourist who is used to smoking much more than this on going on a tour around multiple coffee shops to work up an impressive stash.
There are also certain regulations, that all coffee shops must abide by. No advertising is allowed. This however does not make it any less easy to identify a coffee shop. They usually sport Rastafarian colours and neon lights in the shape of cannabis leaves. Some of them also have large open windows and it is easy to assume they sell weed due to their large jars full of cannabis of shelves behind the counter.
Coffee shops in Amsterdam are not allowed to sell any hard drugs. They are also not allowed to sell alcohol, although this is legal elsewhere at bars and stores. And, as expected, age restriction also applies and these businesses cannot sell to anybody under the age of 18 years old.
Weed tourism in Amsterdam is still booming, with an estimated 5 million tourists visiting Amsterdam each year, some of which choose to experience the coffee shops. It is legal to go into a coffee shop and smoke there. Many of them have a very relaxing atmosphere and provide good food and coffee, which lends to a memorable experience.