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Amsterdam Coffeeshops Are Open, These Are The Rules

These are the obligated measures taken by the Amsterdam Coffeeshops against Corona:

– Coffeeshops are open and permitted to sell weed and hashish at a take-away counter.
– They must be able to arrange this logistically and also observe all hygiene measures prescribed (such as maintaining a 1.5 metres distance between people).
– Customers are now only allowed to pick up weed and can not stay in the coffeeshops or use the shop’s facilities.
– Delivery is not permitted.

Update: Bars and restaurants in Amsterdam will open again on June 1st. Coffeeshops will be allowed to offer full service again on September 1st. Until then they will remain open for take-away.

Stay safe everyone.

Corona Measures: Amsterdam Coffeeshops Open With Restrictions

A slight panic struck Amsterdam’s 420 community when, in the late afternoon of March 15th, the Dutch government announced measures to curb the spread of the Corona virus. All establishments in the Netherlands, such as restaurants, bars and coffeeshops, were to be closed by 6 o’clock that evening, and were to remain closed for at least three weeks.

In a last-minute effort to secure something to smoke during the impending ‘drought’, people formed long lines outside the city’s cannabis shops. In those queues, which sometimes stretched for tens of metres along the sidewalk and around corners, patrons were not keeping distance from each other. To make matters worse, at some coffeeshops the people waiting outside were being preyed upon by street dealers who were handing out businesscards and promoting their merchandise as the soon-to-be only alternative.

However, the government took notice of the situation and in the course of following day the coffeeshops were allowed to open again – be it with restrictions: Takeaway only (no seats, no service, no toilet), everyone is to keep 1.5 metres distance from others and there is a limit on the number of customers that can pick up products that are allowed in the coffeeshop at one time for pickup.

On top of this, most reopened coffeeshops have added their own measures such as the placement of transparant screens on the dealer’s counter and distance markers on the floor.

Relaxing Restrictions

Prime Minister Mark Rutte recently announced the long awaited relaxation of most restrictions. In public buildings from June 1, a maximum of thirty people will be allowed per room. This means, for example, that movie theaters and concert halls can open again.

In addition, most establishments may also open on June 1st. There is no maximum number of people on the terraces but everyone should sit at a table and keep 1.5 meters apart.

Coffeeshops have to wait two months longer to fully open. They will be allowed to provide public access without capacity restrictions again from September 1st.

Dutch Christian Party (CU): No More Weed for Tourists!

CU en wiet

If political party the ChristenUnie  (CU) has her way, customers of Dutch coffeeshops will have to show an extract from their Personal Records Database records (BRP) before they can buy any weed. This proposed measure aims to ban tourists from coffeeshops and limit the acces to weed to Dutch residents only.

The idea is not new. The Dutch central government already gave municipalies the option to ban non-Dutch from their coffeeshops, but municipalities are allowed to determine whether they want to implement this rule. Many towns and cities, such as Amsterdam choose not to implement the ban and still allow tourists and other visitors of the Netherlands to buy and enjoy weed at its coffeeshops. The ChristenUnie wants to change that now. The party wants Justice and Security, minister Dutch to discuss the issue with the municipalities.
“At the moment, the Netherlands is known as the country where you go to get off and use drugs,” says MP Stieneke van der Graaf (CU). “That is horrible and shameful and I want to do everything to break that image as a drug country.”

Drugs and drug tourists cause too much trouble in our country, the politician believes. “Keeping tourists away from coffeeshops is a good start to tackle that nuisance.” Van der Graaf also considers it important that all municipalities apply the same criteria. “Otherwise you are only moving the problem.”

Illegal circuit

Ferry de Boer from the BCD, a branch organization for coffeeshop entrepreneurs, does not think that keeping tourists out of coffeeshops is a good idea. According to de Boer, the demand for cannabis does not disappear and this way you only chase consumers into the street. “This has already been happened in the city of Maastricht, where [after the ban] the number of illegal outlets has increased enormously.” An increase in illegal trade is not desirable for anyone, De Boer says. It would only aggravate the nuisance.

The coffeeshops were created to separate drug markets [to separate hard drugs from soft drugs consumption], he says. De Boer sees the refusal of tourists as a step back. It dates back to the time when there were hardly any coffeeshops. Then everything was sold from the illegal circuit and the Netherlands faced a major heroin problem. “There were parts of Amsterdam where you couldn’t walk as an ordinary citizen,” he says. With the arrival of the first tolerated cannabis, the situation changed. “The tolerance policy displaced the hard drug trade” with the coffeeshop as “safe haven”.

According to Van der Graaf, the increase in street trafficking of cannabis in Maastricht was not so disproportionate that it is a reason not to maintain the resident criterion. “The police were prepared for this and the illegal trade was quickly suppressed. Of course we have to take this into account, but it is not an argument for the long term. ”

Lots of police work

De Boer believes that closing the coffeeshops for tourists, and the associated growth of the illegal market, will cause major problems. “Maintaining something like this is going to require a huge amount of police work, and there is already a shortage of thieves.” In addition, making it mandatory to show a BRP would raise the threshold to go to a coffeeshop. This could also force the Dutch on to the illegal market.

It is not yet clear whether the minister will respond to the call of the ChristenUnie.

Budget Space-Cake

Amsterdam can be damn expensive, so for those wishing to get high on a budget we suggest homemade space cake.

Step 1: Do some research. If you have not tried smoking cannabis before, please do not dive straight into making your own space cake. Edibles purchased at a coffeeshop are made with a strict and precise dose, so for first timers we recommend space cake from a coffeeshop.

Step 2: Get some soft blond hash, or the least expensive ‘soft’ hash available, avoid black hash, it sticks to your teeth easily.

Step 3: Purchase your favorite muffin, brownie or even a chocolate bar for around 1 euro or less.

Step 4: Taking care, split the candy bar in half using a knife or your fingers, if possible.

Step 5: Sprinkle the hashish on half the candy bar. (Coffeeshops generally put 0.3 grams into space cakes, aim for a similar amount.

Step 6: Enjoy the journey, and please remember to keep something sweet on your person, in case you get too high and wish to maintain a lower altitude.

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Birth Of The Coffeeshops

[…] I’ve always been fascinated by the origins of the cannabis tolerance movement in Amsterdam and the Netherlands. How did this happen? How did this little country develop the most intelligent approach to marijuana smoking in the entire world?

At the same time that Holland launched its tolerance campaign, we passed local legislation in Ann Arbor, East Lansing and Ypsilanti that limited marijuana crime punishment to a $5 fine, but our movement never went any further than that until medical marijuana was legalized in 2008.

Amsterdam and the Netherlands went on to establish a system that allowed hundreds of coffeeshops to serve marijuana and hashish smokers for what’s turned out to be almost 50 years.

Here’s how the Anne Bonney, writer of Cannabis in Holland—an Introduction: A Book of Cannabis Truths, says it happened.

HASH HITS EUROPE

     Along with the political and social unrest of the 1960’s came a huge explosion in the use of Cannabis and psychedelics. Another part of the cultural upheaval was travel.

Many young Europeans left the comforts of home or university to travel to the exotic East. In those days the world political situation was such that one could drive (or in some cases, hitchhike) from Europe to Tangiers, Delhi or Kabul and many did.

On their travels the young adventurers adopted many foreign practices—from meditation to vegetarianism and hashish smoking. Soon large quantities of hashish began to find their way back to Western Europe, with Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Copenhagen and other cities becoming consumption and distribution centers.

THE COFFEESHOPS ARE BORN

     By the early 1970’s there was widespread use of Cannabis, speed, heroin, LSD and other recreational drugs presenting various degrees of health risks to Dutch citizens….

The then Minister of Health and Interior, Irene Vorink….concluded that Cannabis was considerably less harmful than the other drugs….Vorink saw that the most common way for Cannabis users to be introduced to drugs “harder” than Cannabis was by the drug sellers themselves.

She took the step of recommending that the authorities stop prosecuting people for the consumption and sales of personal amounts of Cannabis. She then set up a system where access was provided to cannabis in a controlled setting. To do this, she took advantage of existing youth centers as places to permit the sales of small amounts of hashish and marijuana….

The basic concept of the coffeeshop as a place to buy and smoke Cannabis, hang out, have a (non-alcoholic) drink, chat or play a game, has been around since 1971.

That was when the first youth hostel started ignoring smoking and small-scale dealing. It was the government-tolerated selling and smoking in youth centers that provided the model for the coffeeshops of today.

Mila Jansen started a teahouse where people hung out, drank tea and smoked a nice spliff. The first joints were handed out for free as an extra with your cup of tea. Also, people from other countries brought back hashish and other products, so they could trade products with each other.

In 1973, Wernard and three friends opened a small “Tea House” called Mellow Yellow where a single “house-dealer” sold pre-bagged hash and grass from behind the bar rather than the old style where the house simply allowed deals and smoking to go on. Mellow Yellow also sold tea and coffee and had a table football game.

In 1974 Henk de Vries opened the Bulldog Coffeeshop, soon to become world famous, and openly sold hash [as] the first business to use the name “coffeeshop.”
[Note: The coffeeshops proliferated for 20 years until there were 750 or so in the city of Amsterdam alone by 1994, when the federal government began its campaign to regulate and control the traffic in Cannabis, demanding that coffeeshops apply for a license and adhere to the government’s coffeeshop rules:]

THE COFFEESHOP RULES (since 1996)

1. No advertising, including no Cannabis leaf motif in the window or on the sign.
2. No hard drugs, no buying, no selling, no possession, by owner, staff or clients.
3. No public nuisance.
4. No sale of more than five grams to any client on any day.
5. No minors. This means persons under 18.

If shop owners play by these five rules, the government will “turn a blind eye” to the fact that the business sells Cannabis. If any of the five rules are broken, then the shop owner becomes liable for a violation of the Cannabis laws [and subject to loss of license, criminal charges, and/or other punitive measures].

So those are the actual facts of the cannabis issue in Amsterdam and how it sank its roots into the general culture to insure that smokers would be able to get their sacrament. Now let’s have some coffeeshops in Michigan!

Here’s one last little factoid from the Cannabis and Coffeeshops pamphlet: Americans are generally fascinated by the way the Dutch, the British and Europeans in general mix tobacco with their weed before lighting up. I always thought this was because they started out on hashish and smoked it in a mixture with tobacco to keep the flame going. Then weed became available in the 1970s and 80s in large quantities and soon Europeans were smoking 2 grams of marijuana to each gram of hash while using the same mixture concept.

But, as the Grow Grrrlzzz point out, “At first, tobacco was a rare and special imported product, available only to the rich. The seeds were hard to find, of doubtful quality and nobody knew where or how to grow it in Europe. Eventually tobacco became available to enough people that the entire nation [of Holland] took up the craze.

“So, the frugal Dutch began stretching their expensive imported tobacco with the leaves and flowers of their hennep plants by the mid-1500s.” Wow. Free The Weed!

(excerpt from  John Sinclair‘s column FREE THE WEED 70. All Rights Reserved.)

Five Tips On Scoring Coffeeshop Kudos

You’re at the coffeeshop, finally getting high. So now here’s a few tips to help impress the staff, and the customers with further exemplary coffeeshop conduct.

1. Hide your tobacco from sight. Coffeeshops are under strict no-tobacco laws, and can face fines if it’s discovered by city authorities. Maybe remind your friend or neighbor too, hide it bro.

2. Bring back your coffee cups and bottles, and ashtray, to the bar. You’ll be saving staff  a trip to clean your table. A general rule of thumb is to leave the table as you found it.

3. Tip well if you can, especially if you borrow a bong or vaporizer which requires a little extra work for staff. Don’t worry if you can’t tip, it’s all good. Make it known how much you appreciate the service vocally, ‘Dankjewel’ sounds like: (Dank-Yer-Vell)

4. If somebody rings your phone, have a little courtesy and take the call outside.

5. Keep the noise down to a minimum. It’s fun to laugh and shout and sing when high, even dance, but please, try to remember that coffeeshops are not booze-bars where you can perpetually scream. Please try to consider the others, way out-there in orbit around you. Cool beans.

Three Places In Amsterdam Where You Can Roll Up Besides Coffeeshops

In Amsterdam there are quite a few places that don’t sell weed yet allow you to roll up freely. Here you can enjoy a toke, and feast your senses on the delights these 420-friendly establishments have to offer.

1. Bars and Restaurants

Restaurants
There are coffeeshops in Amsterdam where top-notch breakfast, lunch or diner is served daily, but even more exclusive are the restaurants that don’t sell cannabis, but cater for smokers specifically. A great example is Munchies restaurant where meals are served along with a well packed vaporizer, if you so desire.

Bars
Beer and buds, whiskey and weed? It’s all possible at Amsterdam’s smoker-friendly bars. In these establishments you can’t buy weed, but they’ll let you roll up. Many bars even have complimentary papers available. For example: The Doors Palace, Batavia, The Wonder Bar, Barnies Uptown, Susie’s Salon, Cafe Soundgarden, Kashmir Lounge, and Lost In Amsterdam. (a word to the wise: keep your cigarettes out of sight in any bars or coffeeshop).

2. Clubs
Back in the day, most clubs and venues in Amsterdam would let you smoke on the dance floor, but after a new tobacco law took effect, tokers found themselves exiled to the smoking area, together with the cigarette fans. Smoking joints is generally fine in the smoking areas but if you have your doubts, just ask (or smell).

3. In Public
It may come as a surprise, but once you’re outdoors in Amsterdam you can smoke weed almost anywhere (with the exception of the Red Light District and Central Station). You can light up at a picnic in the park or during a stroll along the canal, there’s no rule against smoking in public albeit, with common courtesy.

Weed Demand Outweighs Secret Supply Of Coffeeshops

Dutch Coffeeshops are under increasing pressure and scrutiny over the amount of cannabis stock they can hold, due to an ever growing demand for the drug. In general coffeeshops are allowed a maximum of 500 grams, which sells quickly in a busy shop. The supplier, known as a ‘runners’, may find themselves resupplying the same shop many times a day, risking arrest with every run, if caught in the street, or at their stash pad.

The paradoxical situation revolves around the back-door supply chain, which is illegal but tolerated under strict conditions, together with the question of where to store the stock (usually inside a secret room). Both these grey areas in the law leave coffeeshop owners in constant uncertainty, with the ongoing threat of prosecution. While the problem of nuisance in the cities increases as coffeeshops are closed. Welcome to the paradox of Dutch coffeeshop culture.

Coffeeshop ‘nemo’ in Rotterdam was the largest in the city, and it remains closed after two years since the authorities discovered excess amount of stock on the premises.

“After the municipality decided that no coffeeshops were allowed within a 250-meter radius of the school, 16 were closed. Many customers then came to Nemo. That’s why I had such a large stock.” said Mr. Ilonka Kamans, Lawyer representing coffeeshop Nemo.

Maurice Veldman, a lawyer in Amsterdam highlights a similar need for adjusting the stock limits in Amsterdam and points out that the municipalities of Utrecht and Maastricht allow for one kilo of cannabis stock, due to precisely this higher demand that is caused by the closure of so many coffeeshops. “The increase in demand is largely due to the closure of coffee shops […]”, Veldman said.

Dutch Style ‘Coffeeshops’ In Colorado?

Following the legalization of cannabis in Colorado, the state has to now figure out how to facilitate and regulate places where cannabis consumers can enjoy their weed and hashish in safety, and relative comfort. In Colorado there currently exist around 30 private pot clubs, operating on a loose patchwork of uncertain rules.

A blueprint for such smoking areas could be the cannabis coffeeshops of Holland, but law makers in Colorado recently refused the chance to be the first state in the U.S to regulate pot clubs. “Given the uncertainty in Washington, this is not the time to be trying to carve off new turf and expand markets and make dramatic statements about marijuana”, Governor Hickenlooper told The Denver Post.

Seeing how that after weed was decriminilized in 1976 it took Dutch politicians more that 40 years to figure out the best regulation strategy for Holland, we can imagine tokers in Colorado are not holding their vapor laced breath, just yet.

Coffeeshops in the Netherlands

New Year’s Eve in Amsterdam was even more festive than usual this season as thousands of European visitors flocked to the city to enjoy what they believed would be the last night they’d be welcome in the coffee shops of the Netherlands.

For several months, the reigning Dutch government had been trumpeting the imminent demise of the old coffee shop regime as of Jan. 1, 2012, and the mainstream media were only too eager to amplify the message.

Under the mandated new rules, all existing Dutch coffee shops would be converted to members-only clubs strictly limited to the patronage of Dutch citizens and registered expatriates, and the dreaded “drug tourists” from all over the world would be barred from entry.

But after the border city of Maastricht and other municipalities in Holland demanded that the government delay its plans for at least a year, Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten announced in November that the system won’t be introduced nationwide until 2013.

At the same time, Opstelten insisted that cannabis cafés in three towns in the south of the country — Noord-Brabant, Limburg and Zeeland — will have to turn themselves into members-only clubs by May 1 of this year as a sort of pilot program for the new policy.

Coffee shop owners in Maastrict have already banned all but Dutch, German and Belgian nationals from buying cannabis products in an effort to appease the government, and the border towns of Bergen op Zoom and Roosendaal have gotten rid of their coffee shops altogether.

Elsewhere in the Netherlands, 16 coffee shops In Rotterdam have been shut down because they were located within 250 meters of schools. If this proscription were applied across the country, another 94 coffee shops would have to close. To make things even worse, the government wants to extend the distance-from-school rule from 250 to 350 meters, which will shut down even more coffee shops.

This whole mess started in 2006 when the city of Maastricht decided to ban tourists from the local coffee shops and a coffee shop owner was forced to close after two non-Dutch nationals were found on his premises.

In upholding the legality of the city’s action, The Netherlands’ highest court, the Council of State, appealed to the high European court — sort of the EU equivalent of the U.S. Supreme Court — to issue a ruling that the Maastricht ban does not conflict with EU laws.

Last July, EU Advocate General Yves Bot said the Netherlands was within its rights to ban tourists from coffee shops. Bot said he considers the move necessary to “protect public order” and “reduce the nuisance caused by drug tourism.” In addition, Bot said, the ban would contribute to European efforts to combat the illegal drug trade.

In Amsterdam, the City Council opposes the introduction of the membership scheme. “We are concerned about the problems that will arise from large-scale street dealing,” one councilman said, adding that “there are also health concerns, because with street dealing we cannot monitor the quality of the soft drugs or the age of the buyers.”

The city had solved these problems in the early 1970s when it decriminalized recreational drug use and allowed the establishment of coffee shops as places where cannabis products could be sold and consumed in-house.

But the Dutch policy of tolerance has never been at all popular with most other European governments nor the draconian American authorities, and the social truce that has allowed over-the-counter cannabis commerce in Holland to flourish has always been an uneasy one.

The recent demonstration of official opposition to the coffee shop culture has been a long time coming, but now it looms large on the immediate societal horizon. The Christian Democratic party (CDA) that ruled in the 1990s and early 2000s and remains part of the current government has never fully accepted the “gray area” philosophy, and now that its coalition partners comprise the Liberals and the anti-Islam party led by Geert Wilders, the CDA is making its move with unprecedented confidence.

The intensified crackdown on the coffee shop culture seems to have been enabled by the findings of a government commission in 2009 that concluded hashish and marijuana are far more powerful now than when the “gray area” policy was introduced in the 1970s. (This increase in potency, of course, is the result of the rapid development of the Dutch growing community and its wizardry in generating new and ever more effective strains of marijuana.)

At the same time, according to the authorities, the bigger the coffee shop industry becomes, the more likely it is to come into the grasp of “organized crime.” To that end, the commission recommended cafés become smaller and should sell only to locals.

The illegal growing industry is thought to be worth some $2.6 billion a year, involving some 40,000 people in marijuana cultivation operations on what they call plantations, of which some 5,000 are busted each year. The Dutch government now intends to increase its efforts to drive “organized crime” out of the production and trade of marijuana and to seize the assets of convicted drug criminals.

The crazy thing is that, with marijuana cultivation and distribution remaining illegal, persons engaged in these activities are organized criminals by definition. If they really want to get “organized crime” out of the cannabis business, they would simply legalize marijuana completely and all that crime would just go away since it wouldn’t be “criminal activity” any longer.

The war against marijuana users and the cannabis culture is particularly absurd because there’s no social harm that’s ever been proved to result from viping beyond the possible inducements to race-mixing and guilt-free sexual activity that are proscribed by the orthodox religious order.

Here in Holland, the long-term tolerance of the cannabis culture has both created an atmosphere that attracts weed-smoking pilgrims to make up a significant portion of the local tourist economy and fostered a full-scale cannabis industry that generates billions of euros worth of business within the intimate confines of this tiny nation.

Accordingly, every knowledgeable person I have consulted about the issue continues to scoff at the notion that the state can transform the coffee shop culture by means of the pending legislation.

My friend and mentor Michael Veling, proprietor of the 420 Café and a life-long cannabis activist in Amsterdam, remains convinced that the year-long moratorium now in effect will no doubt end in a further extension of the truce rather than a victory for the suppressive forces.

“There is no way they are going to be able to demonstrate in the courts that ‘drug tourism’ constitutes a ‘public nuisance’ or a ‘threat to public order,’” Veling told me, adding that Justice Minister Opstelten, a Liberal Party member, will have to report back to the CDA representatives — who started this shit thinking they could finally win the battle — that he tried everything but it proved impossible to enforce their mandate and things will have to continue as before.

At any rate, Veling stressed, would-be drug tourists from America and elsewhere will definitely be welcome in the coffee shops of Holland for at least the entire present year. C’mon over, he said, we appreciate your business.

John Sinclair, founder of the White Panthers, is a poet. His latest book is ‘It’s All Good: A John Sinclair Reader.

February 3rd 2012.

Source: CounterPunch Editorial