Tag Archive: Custody

Oct 06

Joint Custody: the Hash Bar Highs of Amsterdam

The Netherlands realised back in the 70s that fighting the “war on drugs” was also fighting a losing battle. Although almost all other countries in the world continue the struggle, the Dutch sought to minimise the impact of drugs on their society, using more forward thinking tactics. They decided to make a clear distinction between soft drugs (cannabis, magic mushrooms etc) and addictive hard drugs (heroin and cocaine). This division allowed the authorities to regulate and tax the cannabis trade, and put far more resources into the cracking down on drugs which did the real damage to society.

Strictly speaking, cannabis is still not legal in Amsterdam; instead it is “decriminalised” – adults without a license to grow or sell can possess a maximum of 5 grams without reprimand, although in practice, possession of up to 30 grams is permitted. When this policy first came into effect, pioneering coffee-shops exploited the situation by openly selling cannabis. At first, they were frequently raided by the police, but by 1980, a level of tolerance was reached; as long as there were never any hard drugs on site and the owners were discreet, the police would let them be.

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In the early days, most coffee-shops imported hash to sell, which obviously created legal problems, as they were purchasing and trafficking goods that were illegal outside of Holland. This lead to the growth in Dutch cultivated cannabis plants (known as Nederwiet), which has now become a science with hundreds of different strains available which are the result of cross breeding programmes. Holland’s climate is not particularly well suited to cannabis cultivation, so most of the high quality weed is grown indoors under artificial lighting. In the same way that Scotland and France have their whiskey and wine connoisseurs, much expertise and excellence surrounds Holland’s cannabis growing industry.

Coffee-shops must be granted a license before they are permitted to sell cannabis and the market is closely regulated. They are not permitted to advertise their greenery so you won’t find flashing neon signs saying “buy cannabis here!” – instead, buy a guidebook to find out which cafes are coffee-shops and then when you enter, approach the bar and ask for the “menu”. You will then be presented with a list of many different varieties of marijuana and hash, which are sold by weight.

Businesses that rely on tourism, such as hostels and hotels in Amsterdam have benefited greatly from cannabis tourism and despite continuing pressure from less liberal governments such as the UK, France and the US, the trade remains alive and well.

However, the current Dutch government is more conservative and has inspired local councils to enforce all coffee-shop regulations very strictly; any that fall foul of the rules are permanently shut down and not replaced. This means that the overall number of coffee-shops in Holland continues to diminish, so if you want to enjoy the hash bar high of Amsterdam, do it sooner rather than later, because who knows how long Holland’s period of enlightenment will last.

Andrew Regan is an online, freelance author from Scotland. He is a keen rugby player and enjoys travelling.

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