Amsterdam coffee shop. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? Now for us Asians, when we hear about coffee shops, one would picture a setting not unlike those of Starbucks. Or if we’re a tad more old school, then those coffee shops where one sips the cafe’s own roasted beans from a quaint ol tiny cup which enjoying some toast (kaya and butter comes to mind) or even accompanied by puffs of smokes.

Amsterdam coffee shop brings a whole new definition to that term, I’m afraid. In the Netherlands, a coffee shop is place where one can legally do soft drugs. Like buying and smoking weed or hash, or having a slice of space cake (any type of cakes that has been infused with cannabis).

Wait, I can hear your brain screaming – why are they called coffee shops then if its just a front of getting high? Well, they actually DO SELL coffee (as well as some other beverages that you’ll find in your regular cafes).

This is partly because before cannabis was properly decriminalised in the Netherlands back in 1976, and when the policies weren’t clearly defined yet, ‘coffee shop’ was the cover name used by the establishments that sold hash or weed. After the proper de-criminalisation happen, the name just kinda stuck.

So, if you wish to just go for a nice hot cuppa (without any of the space age stuff) then make sure you asked about for directions to either a cafe or a coffee house (Koffiehuis) and you should be pretty safe.

So, the next question is : Is cannabis really legal in Amsterdam? Well, technically speaking, it is still considered an illegal substance. But you’re not legally punishable should you get them from a licensed coffeeshop establishments (that are under constant watch by the law not unlike a hungry wolf eying his meal).

What does it take for these Amsterdam coffeeshops comply with the law?

  • Only sell it in small quantities: not greater than 5 grams per person
  • Never advertise (sorry Google/FB Ads)
  • Not sell hard drugs (Hey, why spoil the fun, rite)
  • Not sell to any minor (those under the age of 18)
  • Not be a disturbance to the public and should never be positioned near a school or playground (whoa … some quick thinking by the authorities there)

Why the move to allow cannabis then? Doesn’t it invite more trouble than not? Well, It’s because the higher ups believe that total prohibition of marijuana will cause more problems than it solves, and somehow, the statistics seem to back up these premises.

EU source: Dutch among lowest cannabis users in Europe-report

 If you compare the consumption of cannabis in different countries in Europe you find out that the consumption in the Netherlands isn’t higher than in other countries where cannabis isn’t decriminalized – check out this graph stats here.

So folks, there you have it. A little introduction to the whole Amsterdam Coffee Shop culture and one of the more popularly known case studies on the legalisation of cannabis use we have of the modern society. Till the next time, remember to keep on the metta.

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