Everything you need to know about marijuana smoking in the Netherlands
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T hough considered a lowbrow form of entertainment by some, coffeeshops play a vital role in Dutch tourism: figures suggest that 25-30 per cent of people who visit Amsterdam spend time in a coffeeshop.
Cannabis is currently illegal in the Netherlands, however, Dutch lawmakers today approved legislation that would permit the professional cultivation of marijuana.
Supporters claim it is a step towards legalisation, which will make the cannabis industry more transparent and improve the quality and variety of the drug for consumers.
The legislation has yet to be approved by the upper house of the Dutch Parliament, but if it passes it could mark a turning point for the country’s coffeeshops, which have hitherto operated within a grey area of the law.
I thought it was legal to smoke marijuana in Holland?
No. Despite the profusion of coffeeshops, which sell cannabis over the counter, the drug is not legal in the Netherlands. It is, however, tolerated, meaning the authorities will turn a blind eye to those in possession of 5g or less.
Coffeeshops are allowed to store a maximum of 500g of cannabis on the premises at any one time. Growers have not generally in the past been prosecuted if they are cultivating five marijuana plants or less.
So are coffeeshops illegal, then?
Though coffeeshops are technically illegal, they are granted permits to trade by the authorities. Confused? You’re not the only one: Dutch drug law is a hazy old business.
However, the rules are clear on one matter: coffeeshops are not allowed to buy cannabis. Many coffeeshop owners therefore employ third party buyers, who source the cannabis, no questions asked, and bring it into the shop. Once the weed is through the door, providing it amounts to no more than 500g, it is tolerated by the authorities.
How will the new law affect coffeeshops?
If it becomes legal to cultivate marijuana, coffeeshops will no longer have to worry about employing buyers to sneak it through the back door for them. Essentially, the new law would make it cheaper, easier and safer to run a coffeeshop.
“It would be a more transparent system,” said August de Loor, founder of the Bond Van Cannabis Detaillisten (BCD) union for coffeeshop owners. “The coffeeshop owner would be as normal as the owner of a pub.”
How will the new law affect smokers?
As well as coffeeshop owners, the consumer would also potentially benefit from the proposed legislation.
“The quality of the marijuana will get better, the variety will get better and the price will not be so high,” predicts de Loor. “In every way it is better.”
I thought coffeeshops were closing?
A government-backed scheme to shut down any coffeeshops within 250m of a school has resulted in many closures. The most high profile of which was Mellow Yellow, the oldest coffeeshop in Amsterdam – it closed on New Year’s Day.
Mellow Yellow is one of 28 establishments affected by the legislation, which the mayor’s office claimed would prevent young people from taking up smoking. Critics refuted this and questioned why pubs and bars were not subject to the same laws.
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What about the Weed Pass, is that being enforced?
The so-called Weed Pass was designed to prohibit non-Dutch nationals from visiting coffeeshops. It was trialled in some of the country’s southern provinces – including the city of Maastricht – but most towns and cities have reportedly abandoned the scheme. Amsterdam has been exempted from enforcing the Weed Pass on the condition that the mayor closes coffeeshops located within 250m of a school. However, coffeeshops in Maastricht still require smokers to prove they live in the Netherlands.
How many coffeeshops are there in Amsterdam?
Today just 175 coffeeshops remain in Amsterdam, half the number that existed in the Nineties. Amsterdam has more coffeeshops than any other city in the Netherlands, though Rotterdam, Utrecht and the Hague also have a handful to speak of.
How do you buy marijuana in the Netherlands?
Over the counter and never off street dealers. Most coffeeshops have a weed menu, which gives information, usually in English, about the various strains they have available. Pre-rolled joints are usually available, if you don’t want to roll your own. Alcohol is not permitted in coffeeshops, though patrons can buy soft drinks, hot beverages and snacks.
Everything you need to know about marijuana smoking in the Netherlands Follow the author of this article Follow the topics within this article T hough considered a lowbrow form of