Amsterdam Coffeeshops Are Dope. Here's How They Work.

Posted by Halina Reagan on

Amsterdam coffeeshops are very different from those in Seattle. For starters, an Amsterdam coffee shop will serve us a fresh, mouthwatering selection of weed -- not a cup of java. Yet despite the herb’s prevalence in the capital of the Netherlands, weed isn’t strictly ‘legal’, according to Amsterdam drug laws. So, how are Amsterdam coffee shops allowed to legally operate? And what should you expect when you visit one? Here’s everything you need to know before buying your next ticket for the Netherlands.

DISCLAIMER: As always, none of this information is intended for anyone younger than 21-years-old, neither is it medical or legal advice.

8 Facts About Amsterdam Coffeeshops

Yes, these really exist and are actually legal (and licensed). Before you freak out, here’s what you need to know to get your bearings around the Netherlands’ famous tourist attraction. 

  1. Amsterdam coffeeshops legally sell weed. Their menus may include joints, hash, dry herb and edibles (also known as space cakes). 
  2. Concentrates like live resin, shatter, and BHO are not legal because they are considered Schedule I substances under Dutch law. Hash is legal, however.
  3. In the Netherlands capital, “coffeeshop” = weed whereas “koffiehuis” = coffee -- a common confusion among first-time visitors.
  4. Yes, they do sell food for when you get the munchies.
  5. You don’t actually have to buy your weed strain there, but you should buy something if planning on smoking in an Amsterdam coffeeshop (think: a dessert or a drink).
  6. Weed is strong in Amsterdam so remember that less is more.
  7. Curious about Amsterdam drug laws? Though possession of the world’s favorite herb isn’t technically legal in the Netherlands, coffeeshops are licensed and legal under Amsterdam-specific laws.

Is Weed Legal in Amsterdam?

The answer, strictly speaking, is kind of. Under the Dutch Opium Act, a critical moment in cannabis history, the plant is illegal. However, the Netherlands has a relatively official weed tolerance policy, known as gedoogbeleid. What does this mean? The retail sale of small quantities of weed is not punishable.

Amsterdam coffeeshops are allowed and regulated in order to keep 420 use safe and out in the open. As states where weed in legal have discovered, there are many health and safety benefits to legalizing the herb -- or at the very minimum decriminalizing it. These entail:

  • Cannabis quality control: Under many states and countries’ weed laws, producers must third-party lab test their herb for things like mold, pesticides, THC content, and other contaminants. This is especially crucial for cannabis concentrates like BHO, which can contain traces of their solvent, in this case, butane.
  • How much people can purchase at a time: In Amsterdam, you cannot buy more than 5 grams (0.17 oz). A coffeeshop cannot have more than 500 grams in stock at a time, either. By contrast, recreational consumers buy up to 1 ounce (28.3 grams) of dry herb or ⅛ of concentrates in Nevada.
  • Controlling what is legal -- and how much THC it can contain: Concentrates are not legal in Amsterdam coffeeshops, so don’t be looking to dab your favorite extract there.
  • Who can buy weed: Anyone who enters the shop must be over 18 years old.
  • Education: the establishment is responsible for telling their customers about their offerings and helping them make educated purchasing decisions.

The city routinely checks in on these famous spots -- of which there are approximately 150 in Amsterdam and locations in other cities around the Netherlands -- to make sure they are following the law.

Visiting Amsterdam Coffeeshops for the First Time

Headed to the Netherlands to indulge in its capital’s favorite past time? We don’t blame you. Before you overdo it at one of Amsterdam’s coffeeshops, here are a few basic rules to follow to keep things cool and not annoy the locals by being a tourist (did you know that some municipalities have ruled that coffeeshops can kick out tourists? Be nice).

  1. Coffee shops have menus, just like any other cafe. Feel free to ask questions about their offerings; Dutch coffee shops are big on educating their customers. Plus, they have some of the best weed on this planet.
  2. Coffee shops may have edibles, joints, dry herb, and hash. They won’t have anything you can dab because concentrates are illegal and dealt with differently than dry herb.
  3. There are lots of different Dutch coffee shops, all with different offerings and vibes. Some are more touristy than others.
  4. You don’t even have to buy your weed at a coffee shop, but do make sure you make a purchase.
  5. Shop around: There are lots of different Dutch coffee shops, all with different offerings and vibes. Some are more touristy than others.

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