No shame for legal cannabis in Amsterdam
By Madison Krupp
The city of Amsterdam is flooded with coffeeshops, but these shops won’t serve you a grande caramel macchiato.
Instead they serve marijuana in many different forms, encouraging their cannabis culture to both locals and tourists.
“One of Amsterdam’s biggest attractions is our coffeeshops,” said Demi, a local visitor at the Van Gogh museum. “There’s no shame in that here.”
Cannabis culture is widely accepted in the city of Amsterdam due to its tolerance policy of soft drugs. According to amsterdam.info, the use of marijuana in local coffee shops is tolerated; however, production, trading, smoking on the street and stocking drugs remains a criminal offense. The Netherlands is home to about 200 coffeeshops.
Smoking cannabis is technically illegal under the Opium Act of 1919. Cannabis was added as a drug in 1950. The act states that cannabis is widely tolerated, as long as it happens in a controlled environment. This specifically means that it must be sold in a licensed coffee shop, cannabis must be sold in small portions not exceeding 5 grams of marijuana, sales must only be to adults, no minors are allowed on the premises, no advertising of drugs, and the coffeeshop must not have excessive amounts of marijuana in stock.
Dutch residents are able to grow up to five plants outdoors for personal use. Plants can be taken away if a complaint is made to officials. Plants must not be grown for commercial purposes.
The Netherlands surprisingly have one of the lowest cannabis consumption rates in Europe. Only around five percent of the population uses cannabis regularly, according to a recent study by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction
“We see mostly tourists,” said an employee of local coffeeshop The Dolphins. The employee declined to identify herself as she worked with about six customers in the shop. .
The Dolphins is located near Leidseplein, which is close to Vondel Park. The inside of it is decorated with coral walls and couches, and it is painted from floor to ceiling to convey an underwater experience to the customer.
Coffeeshops sell various forms of cannabis, including marijuana, hashish and hash oil. Marijuana is simply the leaves of the cannabis plant. Hashish extracts glands called trichomes from the same cannabis plant. This may be sold in solid or oil form. Both marijuana and hashish contain the same active ingredient – tetrahydrocannabinol. The main difference between the two forms is that hashish contains higher levels of THC. This information can be found at any local coffeeshop.
“Simply, hash is just the THC, and weed is the actual leaves,” said the local employee.
There are two types of cannabis, which are sativa and indica. Sativa is said to cause a stimulating effect, while indica is said to create a relaxed, anti-anxiety effect.
“Sativa makes you high, and indica makes you stoned,” said the local employee. “They both have opposite effects, so it’s important to know which type you’re consuming.”
Coffeeshops also sell edible forms of cannabis such as muffins, space cakes and lollipops.
The local coffeeshop employee handed out a brochure with tips on how to consume cannabis the right way.
According to the brochure, “smoking hashish or marijuana affects your ability to concentrate, so don’t smoke them at school, at work or when you are driving a car.”
The top of the brochure states that the effects last for two to four hours. It also states that although it can be an enjoyable experience, it can be used the wrong way.
Amsterdam is also home to the Hash Marijuana and Hemp Museum, which is located in the city’s infamous Red Light District. Another location exists in Barcelona. The museum, founded in 1985, provides information on the plant itself, its benefits and many uses.
This small museum has two parts. The first exhibit contains a room where cannabis plants are growing under warm lights. Several charts of the body are shown, along with facts stating how cannabis affects each part of the body.
The second exhibition shows the cultivation process, ancient rituals and products made from hemp, including ropes, textiles and other items.
According to the Hash Marijuana and Hemp Museum, cannabis improves the cardiovascular system and musculoskeletal system, relaxes muscles reducing cramps and convulsions, and improves the urinary and dispository system.
The museum also showcases quotes from famous individuals about marijuana.
“I personally think it should be legalized,” said Richard Branson, English business magnate, investor and philanthropist, on a poster of famous quotes. “I think it’s wrong that 100,000 young people have criminal records every year for doing something which is no worse than their parents are doing every night – drinking alcohol.”
Amsterdam’s laws and attitudes toward marijuana are vastly different than the United States of America. But marijuana is slowly becoming legal in medical and recreational forms across the U.S. Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia currently have laws legalizing marijuana in some form, led by Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Colorado.
Pennsylvania enacted the Medical Marijuana Act, Act 16 on May 17, 2016. According to the Marijuana Policy Project, the Department of Health must start announcing policy regulations by Nov. 17.
Decriminalization of marijuana was also enacted in Pennsylvania. The bill was introduced by state Rep.Ed Gainey, a Pittsburgh Democrat representing the 24th District and lead sponsor of marijuana legislation. On Dec. 21, 2015, Pittsburgh City Council voted to reduce penalties of those in possession of marijuana.
As of January 1, 2016, any person found in possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana or eight grams of hash will face a fine up to $100 instead of a misdemeanor charge.