Amsterdam’s cannabis culture started evolving in 1976, when Dutch authorities began to tolerate its use. Back then, legalization was only a distant dream in progressive states like Washington and Colorado. With decades of history, Amsterdam now has a practice unlike any other legalized city, and one that newbies need to learn about. Before you touch down in the cannabis capital of Europe, here is some insider info so you can smoke like an Amsterdammer.
Avoid coughing up a lung: Expect tobacco mixed in with your cannabis.
Cannabis smokers from the U.S. are accustomed to a joint being filled with cannabis and cannabis only. In Europe, you will be hard-pressed to find a smoker that doesn’t roll what we call a “spliff,” a mixture of cannabis and tobacco. When buying a pre-rolled joint from any coffeeshop in Amsterdam, you should be prepared to smoke both cannabis and tobacco at a 50:50 ratio. Some coffee shops—like Speakeasy in East Amsterdam—sell “pure joints,” which are rolled with cannabis only and cost around 5€ more than a mixed joint. Since coffee shops are a major tourist attraction, mixing cannabis and tobacco is a way to save weed and make money. The Dutch also prefer the spliff experience; mixing the two is tradition and a part of many European countries smoking cultures.
Amsterdam coffee shop owners will help you avoid getting “too high.”
In Amsterdam coffee shops, you can buy loose cannabis, pre-rolled joints, hash, and edibles. The selection is mostly limited to muffins and cakes—most famously, space cakes, which you can find in any coffee shop. Space cakes are slices of pound cake baked with hash, and they are extremely potent; many don’t realize just how strong they are or that it can take up to two hours before feeling the edible’s effect. Coffee shop owners know how uncomfortable being “too high” is. Their remedy? They will tell you, or have it printed on the edibles’ packaging, to eat or drink sugar. Why sugar? Scientists recently discovered a link between cannabis use and lower blood sugar levels, which has led to a discussion of treating diabetes with cannabis. The Dutch discovered that this link is also the answer to coming down from a high. According to an employee at Katsu, a coffee shop in the neighborhood of De Pijp, drinking or eating something with high sugar content will raise your blood sugar and counteract the psychoactive effects of THC.
It's your weed and your choice.
In Amsterdam coffee shops, cannabis is usually sold in quantities that cost either 5€, 10€, or 20€. The most an individual can buy in one day is five grams. At the coffee shop Stud, for example, 20€ will buy you 2.9 grams of White Widow, a hybrid strain bred in the Netherlands. At most coffee shops, once you’ve decided how much of what strain you’d like to purchase, the employee presents you with three separate baggies of cannabis to choose from. On my first visit to an Amsterdam coffee shop I took all three and stuffed them in my purse, thinking that was how much my 20€ had bought me. The coffee shop employee laughed and quickly corrected me before I walked out with three times the amount of Super Silver Haze that I had purchased. This freedom to choose can cause anxiety, but there are visual characteristics to look for in quality cannabis. You can disregard which baggie looks like it has more or less because every baggie is filled and weighed with the same amount. Instead, look for a coat of crystalized resin on the flower, and most important, for thick, chunky, and dense nugs.