In the 1970’s, hard drugs were circulating rapidly throughout Amsterdam. The Dutch government — unlike most of the Western world — chose to tolerate the use of cannabis, and the establishment of coffee shops, to focus on containing the use of hard drugs. This differentiation between soft and hard drugs — that soft drugs are significantly less damaging than hard drugs — is the foundation of The Netherlands’ drug policy. Now, in 2016, there is a total of 155 coffeeshops in Amsterdam, and the city is hailed as the cannabis capital of Europe.
On April 20th, it was a beautiful day in Amsterdam; the sun was shining, the canals were glistening, and the smell of cannabis was drifting through the air. Being in Amsterdam for the holy holiday, I along with four cannabis-loving friends of mine devoted our 420 to a club crawl stopping in the top coffeeshops.
After trying coffeeshop after coffeeshop, I feel confident in saying we’ve found three of the city’s best. For tourists and Amsterdammers alike, here they are (in no particular order):
The Green Place
The Green Place is located in the center of Amsterdam, on a canal, and only a short walk from Central Station. The Green Place is the first coffee shop I’ve been to where an employee talked with me about the strains, and let me smell the cannabis, before I made my purchase. The Green Place has won multiple Cannabis Cup titles; in 2014, they won second-place in Best Coffee shop Strain for OG Reek’n, and third-place in Best Import Hash for Twizzla. I had planned on trying a 2014 winner, but after asking the “budtender” which he thought was the coffee shop's best, I bought a gram of Alien Technology— an indica, Afghani landrace, strain. Alien Technology has a musky smell, and a subtly sweet taste of vanilla. The high is energetic and cerebral, while also relaxing the body’s muscles and joints. It has an instant calming effect — relieving stress with each toke — but doesn’t cause drowsiness. Although the coffeeshop’s blue lighting made it difficult to see — ever tried rolling a joint in the dark? — The Green Place is a comfortable environment to smoke in with cushioned seating, a friendly staff, and quality cannabis.
The Green House
The Green House coffeeshop has four locations in Amsterdam. I visited The Green House Centrum, located in the Red Light District, and was impressed by how clean, and beautiful, the shop was. The space is whimsically decorated with bright colors and contrasting textures, yet it still maintains a high-end, professional, ambience. The Green House is equipped with indoor/outdoor seating, a full coffee bar, and an extensive cannabis menu; they sell cannabis seeds, bio organic flower, hydro weed, a variety of haze strains, and hash, much of which is exclusive to The Green House. Established in 1985, The Green House Seed Company has become a leader in cannabis genetics and has won thirty-five Cannabis Cups. Sitting on the edge of a canal, we smoked a joint of Green House’s Pure Kush. The strain is an indica-dominant hybrid and won third-place for Best Coffeeshop Strain in the 2014 Cannabis Cup. Common to Kush varieties, Pure Kush is pungent and extremely potent. The high begins head-heavy, but because the strain is 70% indica and 19.35% THC, its effects quickly settle into the body. Pure Kush’s potency and narcotic-like effects are optimal for pain relief or, if using recreationally, for not getting off the couch.
As an experience, Barney’s Coffeeshop is one of a kind. The coffeeshop, designed like an old apothecary, has been operating at the same location in Amsterdam West for the last twenty-three years. Originally, Barney’s was a small coffeeshop that also sold breakfast, but since then the Barney’s brand has expanded. Now, on the same block as the coffeeshop, there is Barney’s Farm, a bar and storefront to buy merchandise, such as Barney’s award-winning cannabis seeds. Across the street from the coffeeshop there is Barney’s Uptown, a bar and restaurant. Lastly, just outside of the city center, there is Barney’s Lounge, another coffeeshop that impresses with its relaxed atmosphere and delicious milkshakes. In Amsterdam, Barney’s has become a cannabis empire, but now they are looking to expand overseas. According to the employee working the coffeeshop’s front door, there’s been discussion about opening a Barney’s in California, and apparently that decision was being made on 4/20.
Since the 1980’s, Barney’s has bred and grown their own cannabis. In 1997, Barney’s entered the Cannabis Cup for the first time and won second-place for Best Hashish. Since then Barney’s has won over 40 Cannabis Cup titles, including first-place in Best Coffeeshop Strain for Cookies Kush in 2014. As the offspring of Girl Scout Cookies and OG Kush, Cookies Kush is a potent indica strain. As written on their website, Barney’s says the strain, “Smells and tastes like a fresh baked cinnamon roll with a nutty earthy after taste.” The high of this Cannabis Cup winner is just as sweet; it induces all-over relaxation, euphoria, and an extreme case of the giggles, making it a perfect strain for treating insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Barney’s Uptown was the last stop on our coffeeshop crawl, and it was the perfect place to light up at 4:20pm on 4/20. When the clock struck, I was eating a burger, sipping on a milkshake, and puffing on a joint. It was a very, very, happy 420.