Amsterdamned

Aleta Fimbres 09/01/2009

Amsterdam, everyone’s heard of the place. It’s the party capitol of the world, the biggest little city… people dream of visiting the place. Thinky takes you there…

AmsterdamSmoke pot on the streets without getting arrested. Visit the red light district and look at prostitutes without feeling like you’re in the wrong part of town. I grew up in that city.

I lived in a suburb on the south side of town, just 20 minutes by bike from where it’s all happening. I went to school there, hung out in the parks with my friends and went clubbing since I was 13. No problem there.

Now I’m here, in Singapore. One question keeps popping up with everyone I talk to: “Why? Why would you leave Amsterdam for a place like this?” It’s simple for me, because I’m bored with Amsterdam. I’ve been there for so long, I’ve done and seen everything in Amsterdam. It’s not special anymore, while here, everything is new to me.

Amsterdam is most famous for the hash bars; we call them Coffeeshops. You can recognise them by the green and white sign that says Coffeeshop on the door. In the shop, you can buy a wide variety of hash, pot and skunk. You can buy large cigarette paper and tips there, too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cf6u2u7bmU

The tips are just small pieces of thick paper that you roll up to use as a filter, not to filter the smoke entering your lungs, but to prevent your lips from burning. (I feel strange writing about it here in Singapore, but all I can say is, every country has its own laws and ways, and all are equally worthy of respecting. I’m not advocating doing anything illegal here. But that caveat out of the way, I’ll continue…)

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Dutch people generally smoke their pot with tobacco. Rolled like that, in big four-inch cigarette paper with a tip in there, we call it a joint. The Coffeeshops even sell the joints pre-made for the tourists that don’t know how to roll them yet.

There are at least 250 legal Coffeeshops in Amsterdam, and probably more that don’t have permits. The reason permits are required is to allow the police to check on them. Once in a while, a police officer will come in to make sure there’s no illegal business happening, that the owners aren’t selling cocaine, or heroin, or whatever.

Actually, the system is very strange. The regulations are so complex that no one knows what the real deal is. The most important fact is that marijuana is not completely legal. It’s called a gedoogbeleid, which means that while it’s allowed, the government doesn’t officially approve of it, which makes it possible for the police to do something when things get out of control.

The regulation, as far as it’s understood by people on the streets, is: no selling to people under 16; no possession of more than 30 grams; and not more than 40 marijuana plants per person.

All those regulations are easy. If you’re under 16, you just send your older friend, brother, or stranger in to the shop for you, just like cigarettes here. It’s only illegal for minors to be inside the Coffeeshop to buy marijuana. Possession of over 30 grams is unnecessary, as you usually put about a quarter to a half a gram into a joint.

The maximum amount is enough for 60 to 120 joints, and that should get you through the day. And 40 plants, that’s actually a lot. The law says nothing about the size of the plant, and only female plants count (you can’t get anything good from a male plant).

The Coffeeshops are relaxed places. You’ve got your reggae shops, your rock shops, your popular shops, and your Internet shops. Basically, whatever mood you’re in, there’s a shop for you. You can hang out there, have a drink and smoke your joint, or just buy whatever you need and leave. It’s all up to the customer. Prices vary between 3.50 and 8 Euros (S$7-S$16) a gram, depending on the quality and the kind of marijuana you want.

de DampkringMy favourite shop is de Dampkring (Handboogstraat 29, Tel: 0031 (0)20 6380705, www.dedampkring.nl), which is between Leidseplein and Dam, the two biggest squares in town.

I always take my tourist friends there.

It’s a place with a friendly atmosphere (the meaning of the name) and very nice decor. Not many tourists knew about it before it appeared in Ocean 12, but it’s still got the authentic ‘non-tourist’ Amsterdam feel. The drinks are cheap (but good) and they’ve got some very good pastry… all made with the same high-quality marijuana.

Ever wanted to try a hash-brownie, or pot-chocolate? Then go to Chocolata, on Spuistraat near Central Station (Spuistraat 51, Tel: 0031 (0)20 622 6241, chocolata@hi.nl).

“Service and Quality, Good Smoke and Prices for 20 Years” is their proud slogan, and as their name says, they specialise in everything with chocolate. It’s a tiny little shop, with an outside terrace all white and clean, but oh, do those brownies sure taste great!

It’s important to know that not all drugs are legal in Amsterdam. Cocaine, heroin, opium, speed and X are illegal. There are facilities for people to use such drugs, because we don’t want those people running around on the streets annoying others, but it’s definitely not legal. Someone here in Singapore once asked me if it didn’t scare me that they sell heroin in the supermarket. Well, it absolutely would… if we did that.


Photos: Ignorable.com, Jeffree Benet and others

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