อาจจะไม่ใช่แค่เพียงบราวนี่กัญชา space cake หรือดอกสายพันธุ์หลากหลายที่ทำให้อัมสเตอร์ดัมพิเศษกว่าที่อื่น แต่เพราะมันคือสถานที่ที่ทุกคนสามารถมานั่งสูบได้อย่างสบายใจโดยไม่ต้องกลัวกฎหมาย เป็นเมืองใน bucket list ที่สายเขียวต่างสัญญากันว่าสักวันหนึ่งจะต้องมาสูบกัญชาด้วยกันที่เมืองนี้ให้ได้
Amsterdam’s Coffeeshop Culture, Dismas Barbito
The History of The Mafia in Amsterdam, Steven Brown
Amsterdam stands as the capital of the Netherlands and a hub for the liberation of cannabis consumption, pioneering the concept of consumption lounges, often referred to as “green spaces.” This progressive city has embraced marijuana use within such spaces since the 1970s, setting a precedent for the harmonious coexistence of cannabis enthusiasts and relaxed social settings. In the Netherlands, individual rights and freedoms have been a focal point, with public opinion often carrying more weight than government decisions. In that era, actions deemed unacceptable by society could trigger protests, pressuring officials to resign.
Between 1964 and 1966, there was a period marked by demands for issues like cycling rights in the city, cigarette bans, environmental conservation, and countering distorted media narratives. These factors have contributed to Amsterdam becoming one of the most environmentally conscious “green cities” in Europe today, as well as one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly cities globally.
Even though the hippie movement introduced substances like LSD and hashish, Amsterdam faced a severe heroin epidemic during the 1960s and 1970s. This led to numerous students and young people being arrested and facing drug-related charges, resulting in loss of professions, drug addiction, and even fatalities. This youth issue prompted the Dutch government to seek new solutions, which involved changes to the Opium Act and the adoption of lenient policies, including the concept of Gedoogbeleid (tolerance policy).
The Dutch strategy for managing the epidemic of substance abuse was a shift in attitude through the concept of harm reduction, aiming to understand the nature of drug users rather than viewing it solely as a criminal issue in society.
The World’s First Green Space
Following legal adjustments and the introduction of new policies, the Dutch government declared that cannabis wasn’t a problem and focused more on apprehending groups involved with harder drugs. This pivotal shift transformed the Dutch societal perspective towards cannabis and its users. Cannabis was classified as a mild substance, similar to coffee, cigarettes, or beer.
During that period, hippie groups often gathered at youth centers and social spaces, and consuming hash (which was more popular than marijuana in Europe) was a common practice. The idea of creating social spaces for cannabis consumption gave birth to the concept of the world’s first “coffeeshop” in Amsterdam.
Mellow Yellow was established in 1972 by Wernard Bruining, who saw an opportunity to open a cannabis shop with the support of like-minded individuals and the counterculture community. Wernard conceptualized the shop as a “tea house” where everyone could come in, enjoy tea, and smoke hash. Transactions were done subtly with employees sitting calmly together. The absence of a bar, menu, or any commercial documents allowed the shop to avoid police intervention for several years.
Unfortunately, the introduction of laws in 2017 that limited the proximity of coffeeshops to educational institutions to 250 meters resulted in the permanent closure of Mellow Yellow.
The iconic coffeeshops that have been in operation since the 1970s have established the benchmarks and atmosphere for cannabis venues in Amsterdam. They also serve as the genesis of both the green spaces and the open exchange of cannabis. Even though cannabis is accepted, there is still a lack of comprehensive legal backing. Being caught with more than 30 grams or cultivating more than 5 plants can lead to charges related to cannabis. The government has implemented regulations for these establishments, permitting them to maintain a stock of up to 500 grams daily and sell only 5 grams per individual. Patrons must be between 18 and 21 years old.
Furthermore, menus inside the shops are required to distinctly detail strain names, weights, prices, effects, and more. Additionally, smoking tobacco or combining it with cannabis within these venues is prohibited (a regulation introduced in 2008), as each location provides tobacco substitutes specifically for blending purposes.
The legendary establishment The Bulldog No. 90 is considered the first coffeeshop during 1974-1975. Founded by Henk de Vries, it was intentionally created to provide a space where people could come in, enjoy the ambiance with music, and smoke cannabis in a laid-back style. The place also offers a menu with a variety of cannabis strains, tea, and coffee options. Additionally, patrons can relax on sofas inside the shop.
Holland, Shangri La of Weed
After the year 1976 and the amendments to the Opium Act, cannabis became widely accepted in Dutch society, much like alcohol. Amsterdam evolved into a premier tourist destination for enthusiasts of the green scene, starting from the early 70s. The city became a hub for international cannabis trade, with various types of cannabis arriving from all corners of the globe, including hash from Afghanistan and Morocco, as well as dried marijuana buds from Africa and Indonesia. Additionally, Amsterdam became a significant exchange center for sharing information, seed trading, and strain development, particularly involving American and Dutch cultivators.
During the era of intense crackdowns in the United States, where law enforcement was actively pursuing and apprehending individuals in the cannabis industry, many American growers and breeders sought refuge from the risks of getting caught. A considerable number of them made the decision to relocate to Amsterdam, chasing their own dreams and aspirations. However, it wasn’t just the move that they brought with them; American expatriates also brought a wealth of knowledge and a new generation of hybrid strains. Notably, strains like Skunk #1 and Original Haze were introduced to the city’s scene, playing a role in establishing Amsterdam as a global center for cannabis breeding and innovation.
However, initially, these new strains faced limited acceptance within the coffeeshops. Hash dominated the market at that time, and the familiar dry marijuana buds often lacked robust aromas, failing to capture people’s attention. However, as the 80-90’s era unfolded in the coffeeshop culture, a shift began. Hybridization, mixing strains, and menu expansion gained momentum, leading to improved quality and potency of the flower buds. This marked a significant transformation in Amsterdam’s cannabis landscape.
The legendary Skunk#1
The advancement of global cannabis quality (especially through collaboration between American and Dutch growers) has been significantly evident through competitions hosted by the American magazine High Times. Within the High Times Cannabis Cup event, strains are ranked, flower grading standards are established, and even seed sales are featured on the magazine’s cover, providing readers with a clear benchmark of progress and quality.
The High Times Cannabis Cup competition began in 1988 and usually takes place in November of each year. It provides a platform for coffeeshops to showcase their products and establish their reputation through competition. The inaugural winner was Sam Skunkman (under the name Cultivators Choice), with the renowned Skunk#1 strain that gained fame in California since 1977.
For over 30 years, the competition continued until 2014. With cannabis becoming legal in various countries, including the United States, and with easier travel and improved conditions, the legendary Cannabis Cup event eventually came to a close.
Challenges and Future of Coffeeshops
Coffeeshops in the Netherlands have faced challenges due to the lack of clear regulations for the trade of cannabis, despite its acceptance since 1976. Issues such as arrests and the “backdoor problem” have highlighted the need for a structured approach that ensures transparent trading and taxation. Calls for government intervention to establish proper systems for cultivation and wholesale have grown louder. This would not only offer legal clarity but also enhance safety and transparency in the cannabis market. As the global cannabis landscape evolves, the Netherlands grapples with finding a balance between its cannabis-friendly reputation and a well-regulated, sustainable industry.
The current mayor of Amsterdam, Femke Halsema, is actively pursuing new measures to restrict cannabis rights. She aims to introduce regulations that reduce marijuana privileges and is pushing for new rules to prevent tourists from accessing coffeeshops. These efforts aim to control the emerging underground crime networks. The situation for coffeeshops and the future of cannabis freedom might not seem very promising. While cannabis legalization is progressing in countries like the United States and Thailand, the Netherlands is currently not showing signs of moving in that direction.
Dutch Social Institute
Referring to cannabis establishments as “coffeeshops” is a way that the Dutch create a living room atmosphere, where people can relax, unwind, and enjoy both cannabis and hot beverages like tea or coffee at any time of the day.
For over 50 years, the Netherlands has integrated coffeeshops into Dutch culture. Socializing and visiting cannabis establishments is akin to stopping at a bar after work. Dutch citizens believe that using cannabis should not infringe upon individual moral judgments. It’s not just about the cannabis itself, whether it’s in the form of space cakes or various strains that make Amsterdam unique. It’s a place where everyone can comfortably enjoy cannabis without the fear of legal consequences. Cannabis enthusiasts dream of visiting this city, hoping for a time when they can come together to indulge in the magical plant.
Amsterdam’s Coffeeshop Culture, Dismas Barbito
The History of The Mafia in Amsterdam, Steven Brown