Since, it's a neat article, I though I'd post it for those without nifty netnews access. I hope it's not too illegal. -Erik In
americast-post@AmeriCast.Com writes: > HEADLINE: The Corner Hashish Joint Amsterdam's 'Cannabis Cafe' Habitues Sip Espresso, Nibble Pastries > Publication Date: Thursday December 10, 1992 > BYLINE: JEFF KAYE > > One of the great pastimes for many of the people who inhabit or > visit this picturesque city of tranquil canals and 17th-Century > architecture is to linger in a coffeehouse with a cappuccino , a > pastry and a big, fat joint stuffed with supercharged dope. > > In hundreds of establishments, patrons can casually order up an > espresso, a chunk of Nepalese hashish and a side order of rolling papers. > Just say "Sensimilla," and you get a little packet of marijuana that the > purveyor promises will enliven the conversation at your table. > > Marijuana and hashish are generally sold right next to the drinks and > snacks in the city's extensive network of "coffeeshops" or "cannabis > cafes," as they're also known. Sometimes the drugs are available at the > counter; sometimes they're sold by a guy sitting over in the corner. > There's always a menu specifying type, quantity and price, making > comparison shopping easy. > > "It's just like going to a bar to have a drink," says Sue Medeiros, an > American belly dancer who has lived in Amsterdam for 17 years. "You go > into a coffeeshop to have a smoke. I don't do it myself, but I'm not > opposed to it. I think it's much better that it's all aboveboard." > > Indeed, coffeehouses offering "soft" drugs have become so pervasive > and popular in Amsterdam that they've even splintered into sub-categories > that cater to different sorts of customers, like American bars. > > At a dimly lit place called De Tweede Kamer (The Second Room), for > example, the atmosphere is reminiscent of a sports bar, with a noisy > all-male crowd sitting around smoking dope while watching Dutch baseball > on a TV affixed to the ceiling. > > Chocolade has built its reputation around desserts such as homemade > cakes, fudge, chocolates and, for true snack connoisseurs, Rice Krispies. > The Otherside, decorated in high-tech modern, is considered the best gay > coffeehouse in Amsterdam and features 20 kinds of milk and yogurt shakes, > along with the full array of coffees. The extensive drug menu is > handwritten on a chalkboard at the front counter. > > In many respects, Amsterdam's circuit of coffeeshops is similar to the > burgeoning coffeehouse scene in Los Angeles, offering a place for > people--mostly youngish--to relax, hang out with friends, listen to music > and consume something other than alcohol. > > But where denizens of L.A.'s pik-me-up or Bourgeois Pig might > contemplate whether to get decadent and drop a couple of cubes of sugar > into their double-decaf capps, Amsterdam's coffeehouse habitues consider > whether they're in the mood for blond hash (a giddy high) or dark hash (a > serious zonking). > > Although it's only 5 feet, 9 inches from floor to ceiling in this > stark basement room, the sign reading "Mind Your Head" is not necessarily > about avoiding a bump on the noggin. > > This is the cellar of the Grasshopper coffeeshop, but not the part > where you buy coffee. This is where you buy the stuff to smoke upstairs > with your caffe latte and Earl Grey tea. Unlike most of its > counterparts, the Grasshopper has created a separate space for drug > sales. > > The menu is distinctive: Push a button, and a wall-mounted display > case lights up, showing neatly organized little packets of cannabis, each > accompanied by the standard consumer information blurb. > > There are 14 types of hashish, including "Kashmir," "Lebanon" and > "Zero-Zero," and a similar number of marijuana packets with names such as > "Grasshopper Special," "Skunk," "Purple Sensi" and "Thai." (Most of the > goods cost less than $10 a gram. As one police officer notes, "It's > cheap.") > > An inflatable globe inside the Grasshopper's display case emphasizes > the international dimensions of the trade. > > Over in the corner, behind a glass window like a bank teller, is the > friendly house drug dealer, Sander. > > "I've got a secret for you," he says, smiling. He pulls out a > rectangular Tupperware container, which surely would have stored > yesterday's tuna casserole under different ownership, and opens the lid > to expose moist clumps of marijuana. > > "You want a blast in your head?" he asks. "Just take a couple hits, > and in 10 minutes you won't know what you're doing." > > The name of this off-the-menu special? > > "Holland's Hope," Sander says. > > Clearly, not everyone is enamored by this flagrant consumption of > cannabis, and many consider Amsterdam a sister city of Sodom and > Gomorrah. But finding critics within Amsterdam itself isn't easy. > > "It's rather accepted in our culture," says Kurt Van Es, who reports > on the drug trade for the Dutch newspaper Het Parool. "When there is > opposition, it's aimed at hard drugs, or too much noise, or other > criminal activity." > > Both the Dutch Ministry of Justice and the Amsterdam Police Department > proudly point to the coffeehouse scene as a social system that has > reduced drug-related crime and limited the number of people who abuse > hard drugs, such as cocaine and heroin. > > "We see no harm in possessing or using soft drugs," says Ministry of > Justice spokeswoman Jannie Pols. Government research has shown that "most > of the people who use soft drugs don't use hard drugs," she adds. "And > they stop (smoking marijuana and hashish) after a certain age. We know > that." > > With those conclusions and stats in mind, the government set out to > discourage cannabis users from getting entangled in the world of hard > drugs. > > "We want to separate the market," says Pols. "That's why the > coffeeshops are tolerated. We hope people who want to try soft drugs > don't go to people selling hard drugs." > > Toleration is an important word here, because none of this is > legal. Under the current drug law, the 1976 Opium Act, the importing, > trafficking and possession of cannabis are illegal. But possession and > selling of amounts less than 30 grams are classified as misdemeanors and > given minimal--read: zilch --policing priority. > > That's not to say that anarchy prevails. The police strictly enforce > rules against selling hard drugs, selling cannabis to minors and > advertising. And complaints from neighbors can shut down a coffeeshop. > > Police also have struck back at attempts to exceed the boundaries of > their tolerance. A factory producing something called "Space Cakes" was > raided and closed, as was an enterprising dope-to-your-door delivery > outfit called Blow Home Courier Service. > > Between 20 and 30 coffeeshops are shuttered by police each year for > one reason or another, says Klaas Wilting, spokesman for the Amsterdam > police. > > Ironically, the illegality of the drug business means that cannabis > cafes cannot be licensed, so anyone can open one and little is known > about how many there are and how much they earn. > > Wilting guesses there are 200 coffeehouses in Amsterdam, "maybe more." > Journalist Van Es believes there may be as many as 400 and cites Dutch > government figures estimating the nationwide value of the soft-drug trade > at 650 million guilders a year, or about $400 million. > > How does all that dope get to all those coffeehouses? > > Don't everybody raise your hand at once. > > "I don't know," says police spokesman Wilting. > > "I can't tell you that," giggles Sander, the dealer at the > Grasshopper. > > The Bulldog is credited as the oldest cannabis cafe in Amsterdam, > starting up in 1975, a year before the current drug laws were enacted. It > also appears to be the big success story of the coffeehouse scene, with > three outlets around Amsterdam, including one in the main entertainment > plaza, the Leidseplein. There's also a Bulldog cocktail bar, a Bulldog > bicycle rental service and a Bulldog souvenir shop that sells T-shirts, > denim jackets, caps, ashtrays, lighters, rolling papers and shelves of > other items, all emblazoned with the company logo of a cartoon bulldog > with a studded collar. > > At the main Bulldog on the Leidseplein, right next to a giant Burger > King, the "house rules" are spelled out over the entrance in Dutch, > French, German and English. "No alcohol--No hard drugs--No aggression. By > not following the rules, you will be thrown out." > > Inside, it is dark, crowded and vibrant, with rock videos blasting out > of the TV and customers chatting and passing joints. There doesn't appear > to be a nonsmoking section. > > At the front counter are two young guys from Zurich. One sips his > coffee while the other rolls a joint in a fairly complicated manner that > involves twisting the cigarette paper into a cone and clipping off a > protruding edge. > > "They are tolerant of drugs in Zurich," says one of the guys. "But not > like this." > > It is not immediately clear where the drug sales take place in here. > But closer scrutiny reveals a man with a long black ponytail sitting > discreetly in the corner alongside a counter with three drawers. A > printed drug menu is on the wall above him. > > The dealer, who says his name is Rowdy, doesn't want to talk much > about himself or his livelihood but is willing to give a few insights > during a lull in sales. He is 34, he's been dealing drugs for 15 years, > and he's part of a dealers' cooperative that rents the counter space from > the Bulldog. Sensimilla, a particularly potent strain of marijuana, is > the most popular item on the menu. > > Rowdy doesn't want to discuss much else. But he would like to get in a > plug for the Bulldog. > > "High quality and atmosphere," he says, sounding like a TV commercial. > "In Amsterdam, we're still the first and best." > > > This article is copyright 1992 The Los Angeles Times Home Edition. > Redistribution to other sites is not permitted except by arrangement > with American Cybercasting Corporation. For more information, send-email to > usa@AmeriCast.COM
It's Erowid's Annual Public Support Drive!
We need 1,229 unique donations of $5 or higher in September
to meet our goal (one more than last year).
to meet our goal (one more than last year).
Support accurate information--for education, harm reduction,
benefit enhancement, and policy reform. Please donate!
benefit enhancement, and policy reform. Please donate!