I’ve never been to Amsterdam. It’s been a point of consternation ever since I realized you could get high without the inevitable threat of police. But, I haven’t gone, probably because friends who’ve visited come back and say things like: “You’ll be eaten up by it.” “You’ll never leave,” and “I would take odds that you ended up dead” In actuality it’s because I had no money, and my parents aren’t wealthy, so I didn’t get to take a cool backpacking trip around Europe after college (I have been to Cuba, Ecuador, Rome, Antigua and the BVI–so don’t feel sorry for me).
The warnings from friends did give me pause for concern though. Would I be able to withstand the bevy of available nugget and inevitable catcalls for harder drugs? Read on to find out why people like me aren’t really welcome in Amsterdam anymore, and maybe never were.
I’m probably the personification of the tourists mentioned in this article, but again I haven’t gone. It seems the laws surrounding the cannabis trade have become more conservative recently.
Coffee shops have seen the maximum amount they can sell customers reduced from 30 grams to 5 grams. In 2007 a ban on cannabis outlets serving alcohol was enforced, meaning coffee shop owners had to choose between booze or pot — which explains why the strongest drinks at Cafe 420 are coffee, tea and chocolate. Moreover, advertising for cannabis is banned, so while souvenir shops selling T-shirts festooned with marijuana-leaf designs abound, coffee shops are not allowed to use the image.
Many city councils prohibit the opening of new coffee shops and are quick to shut down any that break the rules. A ban on smoking tobacco in all Dutch cafes and bars hit the coffee shops hard when it was introduced in July 2008, since cannabis cigarettes are often mixed with tobacco. Now the rule is widely ignored.
The best part about that section is the ban on marijuana-leaf designs for coffee shops. That’s actually a selling point for me. I don’t want some tacky marijuana leaf to dominate the sidewalks while I’m cruising down the street looking at options. It’s also no surprise that Dutch kids don’t really give a shit about getting stoned:
A report (whose link doesn’t work) from European Union’s drug monitoring center made headlines in November when it showed young Dutch people lagged well behind many of their European neighbors when it came to smoking weed.
According to the survey, 11.4 percent of Dutch people aged 15 to 24 had consumed cannabis over the previous year, down from 14.3 percent eight years earlier. The Netherlands was ranked 13th out of 23 nations — way behind countries such as Spain, Italy and the Czech Republic, which register more than double the Dutch rate.
This isn’t shocking at all. I realized this when I went to Rome with a soccer team as a 14 year-old and proceeded to embarrass myself on more than one occasion when I got rip-roaring drunk without a chaperon. If we teach young people it’s not a big deal to get high or drunk, they aren’t going to care about it, or they’ll be smarter when they do. It’s pretty obvious to anyone that was a rebellious teenager. Everyone wants to see what something is like, humans are curious by nature, so if we let them get that out of their systems in a safe environment we’ll do better in the long run.
I remember the kids in college that had the super strict parents (or even worse went to private schools), and they just flipped out the moment they left home. Expose that shit to kids earlier is all I’m saying. I wish I had been exposed to this too, but don’t we all…
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