In The Netherlands, the selling of weed is tolerated. So called ‘coffee shops’ sell marihuana. In Amsterdam there are 193 coffee shops. In 2011, there was talk of a Dutch weed pass system. Only residents could buy weed in a Dutch coffee shop after obtaining a weed pass. This system is no longer working. In some border cities (near Germany and Belgium) coffee shops only sell to people with Dutch residency. This not the case in Amsterdam. In Amsterdam, all tourists over the age of 18 are welcome to buy marihuana and smoke it.
Why was there a plan to ban Amsterdam coffee shops for tourists?
In Dutch cities around the border of the Netherlands with Germany and Belgium, many foreigners cross the border just to buy pot in Dutch coffee shop. These cities say there is much crime and violence that is related to the drugs trafficking by tourists.
To tackle the disturbances, the Dutch government decided that hash and marijuana may only be sold to a person living in Holland (Dutch residents). Customers will need to show id and a proof that are legal inhabitants of The Netherlands.
Can I smoke in cannabis cafés and hash bars?
The smoking of drugs like cannabis and hash is not legal, but tolerated in Amsterdam. You can freely buy and smoke up to 5 grams of hash, weed, pot, cannabis and marijuana in special hash bars, known as coffee shops and smoke cannabis openly in the streets in Amsterdam.
Cannabis trade however, is officially banned by law in The Netherlands. Only a so called coffee shop in Amsterdam, that has a special license, is allowed to sell pot and hash if they abide certain rules. If an Amsterdam cannabis café does not obey the rules, it can foresee closure.
All other drugs, like xtc, cocaine or crack are just as illegal as in any other country.
The Amsterdam coffee shop smoking rules 2016:
No hard drugs, only marihuana products
No entrance (and sale ) of people under 18
Max. 5 grams per person per dag
Stock pile of max. 500 gram
Not located within 350 meter of a school
Also, coffee shop are allowed to sell cannabis, but not allowed to buy it.
Coffee shops in Holland
The total amount of coffee shops in Holland is falling. In 1999 there were 846 coffee shops in 103 cities, now there are 582. All these coffee shops sell a total of 100.000 kg of cannabis every year. This is about 70% of the cannabis that is sold in The Netherlands. About 30% is sold in other ways: home dealers and delivery service.
Amsterdam now has 193 coffee shops, about one third of all the shops in The Netherlands. The opening times and closing times of coffee shops differ, but they must be closed at 1.00 am at the latest.
Closing Amsterdam coffeeshops
Since 2014, a distance between a school and coffee shop must be at least 350 meters. Because of that new rule, 43 coffee shops in Amsterdam had to close. A coffee shop can also be closed on the mayor’s orders, when a cofee shop does not abide the Dutch cofee shop laws. This happens mostly when hard drugs, like ecstasy or cocaine is sold in a coffee shops.
Amsterdam back-door policy
Buying marijuana, cannabis, weed, hash in large quantities is illegal. So the Amsterdam coffee shop basically has to sneak the drugs in through the back-door. As soon as it’s inside the coffee shop, they’re safe.
This is called the Amsterdam back-door policy on soft-drugs.
The first Amsterdam coffee shop
Hasj and marihuana came to Amsterdam after the Second World War. The Americans introduced the pot in Amsterdam: American soldiers based in Germany who came to Amsterdam on leave and American jazz musicians who followed their tracks.
The first Dutch coffeeshops appeared in Amsterdam in the 1970s. In those days, drugs were a huge problem. Large amounts of hard drugs, were flowing into the city (as everywhere else in the western world). Junkies addicted to heroine and cocaine swamped the area around the Red Light District: Zeedijk, Amsterdam Chinatown and the Dam, turning this area into a drug dealers paradise. Crime soured.
Hippies love Amsterdam coffee shops
The peace loving hippies preferred smoking the much softer and less addictive marijuana and hash and didn’t cause many problems. The Amsterdam authorities, in their fight to get control, decided to focus on tackling the heroine and cocaine hard and left the hippies in peace.
As the hippies were given more freedom to smoke, the first coffee shop in Amsterdam appeared: Mellow Yellow (closed in 1978) (and Sarasani in Utrecht). The city council more or less accepted or tolerated the new cannabis bar in Amsterdam.
The oldest, still existing coffee shop in Amsterdam is Coffeeshop Rusland in Amsterdam, opened in 1975. It’s still at the same location. Another is The Bulldog, also opened in 1975. The Bulldog now owns a chain of coffeeshops in Amsterdam, including a hotel and souvenir shop.
Distinction between soft and hard drugs
In the Opium Act (1976), the distinction between soft drugs, hash and marijuana and hard drugs like cocaine and heroine was stated. After this, more smoking houses all over The Netherlands started to pop up. In the ’80s the Dutch version of a war on ‘hard drugs’ resulted in huge cleaning operations of the Zeedijk, the area round Chinatown and the Red Light District.
The Zeedijk was completely renovated in the 1990’s. It is now a friendly and safe area.
Can I walk around with marijuana and smoke a joint in Amsterdam in public?
It is possible to carry a maximum of 5 grams of weed, cannabis, hash or marijuana for personal use in Amsterdam. Lighting a joint on the terrace of a nice restaurant of bar is generally not allowed by the restaurant or bar itself. In some areas in Amsterdam smoking pot on the streets is banned of the annoyance smoking youngsters cause to the neighbours. In 2006 the city created special street signs, that soon became a collectors item. The city council responded to the many stolen signs by selling plastic versions of these signs. These are no longer for sale.
Is weed legal in Amsterdam?
Pot, weed, marijuana and hash are free to consume in Amsterdam, as long as it’s clear it is meant for you personally. Strictly speaking, weed is not legal in Amsterdam. Walking around with 5 to 30 grams of soft drugs can lead to prosecution in a court of law. The production, supply and possession up to 30 grams can get you a sentence of one month in prison and a fine of €2.250.
Possession of more than 30 grams can lead to a 2 year-prison sentence and a fine of €11.250. The real serious drug dealing, like large scale production or importing or exporting marijuana has more serious consequences and can lead up to 4 years in prison and fines up to € 45.000.
Are XTC, GHB, LSD, speed and cocaine legal in Holland?
An Amsterdam coffee shop can only sell soft drugs: hasj, stuff, pot, cannabis, weed and marijuana. Cannabis bars in Holland don’t sell drugs that are considered hard drugs, such as xtc, ghb, lsd, speed or cocaine.
Possession of hard drugs is a crime in The Netherlands. Maximum penalty for possession is 4 years in prison and/or € 67.000 fine. Maximum penalty for dealing hard drugs is 8 years in prison; importing drugs to the Netherlands: 12 years in prison.