For students on exchange, or backpacking holidays, Amsterdam is a highly desirable destination, a city synonymous with liberal laws and attitudes regarding so-called ‘soft drugs’. Of those that stop there, many will inevitably choose to indulge in the legally-sold, high quality cannabis on offer. Based on this reporter’s experiences during multiple visits to the city, here are some ways to responsibly enjoy your time there.
The first stop for any intrepid traveller ought to be a “Smart Shop,” where knowledgeable and friendly staff sell a variety of cannabis paraphernalia and dispense free advice on how to approach the iconic Coffee Shops, where one may purchase cannabis products.
Like alcohol in Australia, which will tell you how many standard drinks it contains, cannabis in Amsterdam will be packaged in different ways and will be labelled with some indicator of its strength, and instructions for use. If smoking appeals, read the menus of joints available at many Coffee Shops—they will explain where the strains come from, what, if anything, they are mixed with, and what effects to expect. For brownies, the label will tell you that it may take some time to feel full effects; it is worth having half a brownie with a friend, and then waiting.
Consuming alcohol in conjunction with cannabis is not recommended, particularly if you have eaten a brownie, as they are more potent and long lasting. And although Amsterdam is a wonderful cycling city, do try to avoid riding a bicycle after smoking or while affected by ‘space cakes,’ just as you would avoid driving a car after drinking. Although you may see or believe you see many people doing it, it is advisable not to consume cannabis outside of private residences or licensed coffee shops.
Outside of the Coffee Shops, though, there is still an illegal market operating on the streets, where it is not uncommon to be solicited to buy cocaine. In fact, Vice reported late last year that there have been multiple reported instances of heroin being sold as cocaine. To have a safe and enjoyable time in this city, stick to licensed establishments and shopfronts.
A final word on how to enjoy Amsterdam would be not to make it all about the chemical component. Explore the wonderful art, history and architecture on offer too.