If you don’t live in a legal state or country with a tolerant legal framework on cannabis, chances are you think a visit to Amsterdam is like a trip to a land where everything is possible. I know that was the case four years ago when I first visited the city. Coming from Sweden, a country with strict regulations on cannabis, I was taken aback at how relaxed things seemed in Amsterdam. Coffeeshops were ubiquitous, there were tons of strains to choose from and everywhere I looked, I saw happy high people.
It took several more trips to Amsterdam to understand that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to its liberal culture. In this article, I am going to dispel four common myths surrounding the Amsterdam coffeeshop scene and discuss some topics that most first-time visitors get wrong about the city’s cannabis culture.
Myth #1: Cannabis is Legal in the Netherlands
Seriously, that’s the first and most important thing you need to remember about cannabis in the Netherlands. Possession and use of cannabis are decriminalized and tolerated, but certainly not legal. Carrying more than five grams at all times is both illegal and criminalized, so if the police catch you with more, you will have to pay a fine and say goodbye to your weed. However, this information only scratches the surface of a complex “legal” framework.
Interestingly enough, growing more than five cannabis plants in the Netherlands is illegal. Fines for violators can be harsh, including up to four years of jail time and hefty fines, or worse; eviction. However, observant readers would have already caught one significant discrepancy: how is growing cannabis illegal in a country full of licensed coffeeshops?
This is a problem so significant that it has its own name: it’s called “the achterdeur problematiek” (the backdoor problem). Coffeeshops may not hold more than 500 grams of cannabis in their inventory at all times, so the supply has to be continuously renewed by illegal growers. More often than not, these growers enjoy the protection of criminal organizations and police crackdowns are a daily phenomenon. You can find more in-depth information about the Dutch cannabis legislation in one of our previous articles.
Myth #2: You Will Get the Strain That You Paid For
There is so much information written about all the different cannabis strains throughout the web. Breeding and cultivating are two of the most exciting parts of the culture. After the recent wave of cannabis legalization in the US, the growing scene in California has been extraordinarily active, with thousands of new genetics and phenotypes flooding the market. New strains are engineered to cater to specific audiences, whether that’s people who want huge amounts of THC or medicinal cannabis patients.
With literally thousands of strains out there, it is practically impossible to verify what the correct genetic profile of your bud is. Let’s say you enter a coffeeshop and decide to buy 3 grams of White Widow. If you make your choice by name alone, you have very little to go on.