From Buckfast to… Amsterdam! Column 3

This year, the Dutch government announced that they would ban the use of its world famous coffee houses for tourists… again. Is it just me or do they say this every year? And every year all the stoners from across the land fill up their back packs with pop tarts and wagon wheels and rush over to Holland ‘before it’s too late!’

There are in fact plenty of other things to see in The Dam if you’re not a big stoner.

The Van Gogh museum allows you to get up close to all those swirling blues and yellows you discussed in high school. It takes you through his creative journey from artists whose works inspired him to more contemporary artists inspired by him. You are taken from dark images of people working in fields to some of the most beautiful depictions of flower arrangements and imaginative uses of colour and brushstroke. We are taken from experimentation to artistic legend all under the cruel shadow of his death and late fame. It was rubbish.

You can take a tour of the canals by boat where you can watch the unique architecture of Amsterdam unfold in front of you. As the boat turns and each house appears before you, column by column, the beauty multiplies. Some houses take up the width of four narrow homes and as the boat soars past, each panel reveals the carefully designed symmetry or asymmetry of the building, creating a fascinating landscape where the art strolls past you.  Wasn’t worth it.

The Heineken Experience was a bombardment of advertisements. You could relax and watch films which were basically just attractive people enjoying Heineken, making friends that you’d love to be cool enough to make friends with and being tall and Dutch looking, until you’re spat out at the gift shop. By this point you are a shell of your former self. You’ve had a wee bit to drink and all you’ve seen for the past hour and a half is how happy you would be if you had more green things with red stars on them… and perhaps another Heineken. Waste of time.

With all of Amsterdam’s so-called tourist attractions getting such bad reviews it seems it would be a dreadful shame if the city’s main allure, its liberal attitude towards mild narcotics, became illegal.

At the moment, ‘coffee shops’ are allowed to sell cannabis over the counter in small quantities. As you enter, just like any other coffee shop you are presented with a menu but rather than sit in or take away it’s by the gram or a pre-rolled.

You cannot buy alcohol in these coffee shops as it isn’t thought to be a good mix and I did see one lad refused service because his first choice had been a strong strained pure joint and the glazed eyed youngster chuckled out the café and into the adventure of the rest of his day.

If the threatened restrictions are put into place, each of the 800 coffee shops will have a maximum of 1,500 members on an annual contract. Each person who would like to enter a coffee shop will also need to provide proof of residency in Holland in order to obtain this membership.

This idea is already being seen as tourist suicide.  Though Dutch health and justice ministers have said that, ‘this law will put an end to the nuisance and criminality associated with coffee shops and drugs trafficking’.

Surely it will increase criminality when locals are openly able to buy and carry 5g of weed with a membership card and can then sell their weed to a tourist for a profit? Perhaps they will add crushed glass or salt to mimic the crystals in weed’s active component THC?  Amsterdam will no longer be the safe haven it is now where if you have a problem with a pimp you’re advised to speak to a police officer. It’ll be the same as the rest of the world, full of nuisance and criminality.

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