Residents of Amsterdam, the marijuana mecca, know how to smoke weed. And it is clear why—the country’s cannabis culture started evolving in 1976 when legalization was only a distant dream in progressive states like Colorado and Washington.
You may be surprised to learn that recreational drugs, particularly cannabis, are illegal in the Netherlands, although the Dutch parliament decriminalized the possession of up to five grams of the drug and the sale of small amounts in a controlled and regulated environment. Today, the marijuana business incorporates various coffeeshops and hotels, weed seeds, bicycles, and promotional items in its portfolio.
Also, since 2008, when the Netherlands imposed restrictions on smoking in public, it has been prohibited to smoke in most public places. However, you can still enjoy your perfect joint in a coffeeshop.
If you are planning to visit Amsterdam for the first time and are not familiar with the local etiquette, we have picked a few Amsterdam tips that guarantee you the best marijuana experience.
What kind of nonsense is this, you may say. Across the city, there are literally hundreds of coffeeshops where you can legally buy and smoke Amsterdam weed or eat a bit of a “space brownie.” But there is also a big number of cafes and coffee houses, i.e. places where you can drink a cup of steaming black coffee or hot chocolate. They are usually the equivalent of a cafeteria and do not sell marijuana.
So why are they called coffeeshops when they do not serve coffee? Actually, they do: you can easily ask the person behind the counter to serve you a cup of espresso, soda, or some light meal.
You can recognize coffeeshops by a green-and-white sign at the entrance, which is usually hanging beside their licenses and a notice declaring that only those over 18 are allowed to enter.
Technically, coffeeshops operate in a bit of a legal gray area. Before 1976, when the policy of decriminalizing marijuana was not so clear, the shops selling hash and weed used a cover name “coffeeshop.” But even after the official decriminalizing of the drug, the name just stuck.
Explore Amsterdam to find a place you like. We do not recommend you to wander around all the shops available, because when we said there were hundreds of them there, we did not exaggerate—you could not possibly visit them all even during a week.
Every coffeeshop offers different assortment and prices. As it is with any product in every other tourist city, the drug in the shops located closer to the tourist center are more expensive than in places further away from high-trafficked streets. Some locals even say that the weed there is not only cheaper but also higher-quality.
Furthermore, all coffeeshops are different: some are set up as a multiroom lounge with pinball machines, others are more like quick shops and do not have any seats; there are those that have a modern décor, and those that look like night clubs where DJs play music.
So our Amsterdam weed tip goes like this: do research and choose a few most popular and reputable shops before traveling. Just like you do with any food or drug you put in your body, select vendors by certain criteria. Do not settle for poor service. The Dutch are rather straightforward and mostly try not to engage in small talk with visitors, but a good budtender will definitely answer all your questions, even the most stupid ones, and offer you a recommendation. Imagine that a waiter refused to answer questions about a restaurant menu. Would you still order a meal there?
Drug dealers are often searching for targets in the Red Light district and the surrounding areas, but they could bother you in any place. Wherever you go in Amsterdam, you will notice numerous warnings saying that you should not buy drugs from random street drug dealers. Listen to them!
There are a few reasons for this. The first one is that you have no idea what is in your package, as well as who is selling it to you. In the best case, you will buy dung, powder, or aspirin instead of marijuana. In the worst case, you will end up in the hospital.
Secondly, like in most big cities, you may be cheated or robbed.
And finally, while the consumption of marijuana is “tolerated” in coffeeshops, the sale of the substance on the streets is illegal.
Every coffeeshop has a menu. So the question “How much is the weed in Amsterdam?” can be answered by a simple visit to the nearest shop. However, because of the advertising restrictions, the menus are not supposed to be removed from the main counter, so you will not see them on the tables, rather they can be found at the bar or on a display board that is illuminated after you push a button. However, even if you discovered a menu, do not expect it to tell you much about marijuana because it usually does not contain detailed descriptions: most likely, you will see the prices and the names of the strains available.
So, talk to a budtender. They are mostly knowledgeable, friendly, and very accustomed to tourists who do not know the niceties of the whole process. Ask the employees what they recommend and what the effects of that product are. They will likely ask you something like “Do you want to get high or stoned?” If you find common ground, they will offer the best advice.
Buying weed in Amsterdam may seem like a real quest, but it is much easier and funnier than you think. Like the menus, the containers with weed will be pulled out from under the counter on your request. Always ask the budtender to let you look at a few tubes with strains before making the purchase. Thereby, you might have a chance to avoid junk weed. There is just one unwritten rule: when the budtender shows you buds, do not touch them, just look and smell. It is also desirable to narrow your choices down before asking to open tubs. Why? Just go to Starbucks and ask the bartender to let you smell you every single type of coffee they have.
If you want to roll your own joint right after the purchase and smoke it in the coffeeshop, ask the budtender to give you a few papers. Usually, papers and tops are available at the every bar free of charge. You can grab a couple of free rolling papers even if you bring your own weed or order nothing except a cup of coffee. You can also borrow a lighter for your smoke session or buy a branded one.
Fortunately, almost all cannabis shops in Amsterdam have smoking sections. Sometimes it is allowed to light your joint directly near the cash register, but most shops have a designated smoking area. There are some shops where people can only buy the stuff but are not allowed to smoke or vape their purchase.
So, when you buy your marijuana, always make sure to ask whether it is okay to smoke it there and where you can do it. And please, do so before you light up.