"HOLLAND" Page 1, 2,
Coffee and cannabis
"Soft drugs" such as marijuana and hashish are
technically illegal in the Netherlands, but they're tolerated within certain
limits. Small-scale production and use aren't prosecuted, and
"coffeeshops" are allowed to sell cannabis as long as they're
discreet. Imagine your local Starbucks with a hashish counter in the back where
you can choose from a selection of your favorite leaves and smoke a joint with
Thanks to this relaxed policy toward grass, Amsterdam attracts
latter-day hippies from all over Europe (along with a fair-sized contingent from
the U.S. and Canada). In Travels
as a Brussels Scout, Nick Middleton describes being with a group of
British acquaintances who were in Amsterdam on a drug holiday:
The soft drug culture was all around us, although
most of the participants seemed to be foreigners. There was a fellow Englishman
who worked in my hotel who always looked at the list when I asked for my key and
said, "Mr.Middleton, yeah?"
"That's right," I would reply and he
would counter, "Sorry, I won't ask next time. I've got a pretty shit memory
and unfortunately I'm in the wrong place to get it back."
Rick Steves, too, has comments on the Amsterdam drug scene in
from Europe. He writes about a visit to the Grey Area Café, a
coffeeshop near the Ann Frank House:
Alone with the younger guy, I ask him about the
sign with a delivery boy on it.
"In Holland we have pot delivery
services," he explains, "like you have pizza delivery in America.
Older people take out or have it delivered."
"This coffee shop would never be possible in
the United States," I say.
"I know," Peter, the bartender,
agrees. He shows me the snapshops of Woody Harrelson and Willy Nelson , each
in the obscure little coffee shop, and continues, "America's two most
famous pot smokers told me all about America."
Unfortunately, there's a dark side to drug policy
in the Netherlands, which is based on tolerance without legalization: Organized
crime reportedly is involved in the growing and distribution of marijuana, and
more dangerous drugs such as "ecstasy" are becoming increasingly
popular. For more on these problems, see David Downie's "Going
Dutch" article in Salon.
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