From its humble origins on the steppes of central Asia over 12,000 years ago to its eventual arrival in North America in the early 20th century, cannabis has long since captured the attention of humans all over the globe. Where some cultures freely and openly promote the use of marijuana, others place strict and controversial legal restrictions on possessing, growing and taking part in the growing culture of cannabis.
Let’s take a trip together- that’s right, you heard me! Roll up a bone or two, grab your lighters and get ready for a high-venture to discover a few of the top open and friendly cannabis cultures from around the world:
British Columbia, Canada
Photo: Max Spliffington
Birthplace of the world-famous “BC Bud”, this alluring western province in Canada cultivates the majority of all Canadian cannabis. Although marijuana is technically illegal in Canada (except for medicinal purposes), it is widely tolerated and openly displayed.
Known as “Vansterdam” by locals, this Mecca of cannabis culture in Canada is the place to go if you want to experience a new kind of high. Here you can find numerous cannabis coffee shops where the sweet herb is smoked openly and enthusiastically. In smoke-friendly shops like Vancouver’s New Amsterdam Café, you can enjoy a toke or five while munching on a plethora of tasty food items such as the delectable grilled-cheese sandwiches aptly named “The Cheech” and “The Chong”.
The only catch when visiting B.C’s cannabis-friendly shops is that you must bring in your own herbs if you intend to smoke. Stores and cafés are strictly forbidden from selling marijuana and the ones that tried have all been shut down. There are designated places in Vancouver known as “safe spaces” where you can go and enjoy your own medicinal herbs without fear of getting ticketed. Despite their permissive attitude, possession of cannabis can still land you in hot water.
Public support for legal marijuana is highest in B.C. compared to the other Canadian provinces, but the majority of Canucks hold a very laid-back and supportive attitude towards cannabis. If you’re curious and want to discover the prolific offerings of “North America’s Amsterdam”, do yourself a favor and utilize those unused vacation days to pay this cultural gem a visit.
Photo: Smokers Club
Next on our tour of the world’s greenest cultures is the good old US of A. We may have been late to the party but we sure know how to make an entrance! Thanks to the persistent efforts of pro-marijuana activists, organizations like NORML and active voters, there are now 4 states that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Altogether, 23 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized the use of cannabis in one form or another.
Starting on the Pacific coast, Oregon was the first state to decriminalize cannabis in 1973 followed by Alaska, Maine and California. Fast forward to the present day where anyone over the age of 21 can walk into a dispensary in Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Colorado and purchase marijuana for recreational use. Colorado is considered by many herbal aficionados to be the new cannabis capital of the world, thus dethroning the tourist trap known as Amsterdam in place of a more prolific culture of cannabis to and for the locals.
Speaking from experience, the cannabis culture is absolutely thriving in my home state of Colorado where the dispensaries quickly outnumbered Starbucks. Marijuana enthusiasts in the Mile High State can enjoy professionally packaged and nutrition-labeled edibles, beverages and smokeables available throughout Denver and surrounding areas (including our famous ski resort towns). In the states where recreational cannabis has been legalized, it is not uncommon to see, smell and hear about marijuana regularly.
One of the biggest differences between the cannabis scene in the US versus somewhere like Canada or the Netherlands is that there are currently no legal establishments where you can toke up in public. For now, the use of marijuana is restricted to private use until the antiquated drug laws catch up with modern times. However, this does not mean you won’t see plenty of people lighting up at public events or vaping in their cars on their way home from work.
I realize that my quip about Amsterdam being a “tourist trap” might have rubbed some of you the wrong way, but if you’ve ever actually been to Amsterdam you know exactly what I’m talking about. Unlike British Columbia or America, partaking in the greenery in the city of canals is mainly something that only tourists actively pursue.
Where legal cannabis is new and exciting in other parts of the world, here it is old news. The difference in attitudes between coffee shop employees in Amsterdam and the enthusiastic “budtenders” at dispensaries elsewhere in the world couldn’t be more different. This is likely due to the Netherlands’ close proximity to many other European countries and therefore the massive hordes of tourists that swarm this watery city throughout nearly every season of the year.
Sadly, cannabis is so normalized in Dutch society that most natives don’t care much about it. High tourists are mostly just laughed at and made fun of by the locals. My experience in Amsterdam was that of subpar herb, super-strong coffee and hilarious British visitors attempting to work a Volcano for the first time. After watching a couple of baked Englishmen attempt to inflate the Volcano bag manually (yes, really), I had to step in and show them how it’s done.
Even though Amsterdam has its share of pitfalls, it certainly has its upsides as well. For example, you’re never more than a few blocks away from a café where you can purchase and enjoy your herbs in the same spot. Not to mention the fact that the food in Amsterdam is out of this world. Fries with heaping globs of mayonnaise and monstrous slices of pizza permeate every street corner, sure to satiate even the hungriest of tummies that come staggering out of the coffee shops.
No matter where in the world you decide to light up, one thing is for certain: different cultures from all walks of life recognize cannabis as a useful and pragmatic way to come together and enjoy one of Earth’s finest gifts to humanity.