Amsterdam Out Of Business


Amsterdam. Just mention the name and you’ll get a reaction; most of the time it’s a guilty grin or a look of disgust. What someone themselves has done or what they have been led to believe what goes on. Amsterdam is an adult’s playground yes, but it’s so much more than the three elements of marijuana, alcohol and brothels it has unfortunately been branded with.

                Born out of the boggy marshes of the lowlands of northwestern Europe, Amsterdam itself is a feat of human ingenuity. In the very early part of the 13th century, the lord of Amstel erected a castle near what would later become Amsterdam. It wasn’t until 1270 that the waters that made this region uninhabitable to even the Roman Empire began to be tamed. A dam was built to control the river Amstel and thus tiny Aemstelledamme was born.

                The city went on to be an Eden of sorts. Out of the muck and mud the world’s largest shipping hub was created. Once the Amstel was controlled, the city slowly grew to be a haven for merchants from around the globe. Even the world’s first international company, The Dutch East Indies Trading Company was founded there. They even stayed in business for almost three centuries! In the 17th century Amsterdam was the center of activity in what would later become known as the Golden Age. Although the city has had its boons and its busts, it has always maintained its determination for prosperity and forward thinking.

                Amsterdam has overcome countless obstacles in its 700 plus years since its inception. Controlling the waters in and of itself was a miracle. Amsterdam survived the Black Death that swept Europe killing millions. It has been ruled by nearly every neighboring country. It recovered from two devastating fires that nearly destroyed the little city; one in 1421 and the worst of the two in 1452. Laws were then enacted prohibiting the use of most wood in future construction. It survived the Reformation and the persecution of Catholics. Although neutral in WWI, Holland was occupied by the Nazis for nearly five years during WWII. Over 90% of all of Holland’s Jews were sent to concentration camps or just exterminated. The list goes on and on but Amsterdam and the Dutch people have not just survived but have flourished; all the while remaining fiercely independent.

                Amsterdam has been one of our modern seats of humanity, ingenuity, autonomy, and the right to govern oneself. Lucky for the citizens and the legal residents of Holland, as of spring 2013 they will still be allowed the self governing right to legally purchase marijuana and hashish and consume them in the city’s famed coffee-shops. Tourists however will no longer be allowed that luxury. The law has already been enacted in many of the provinces around Amsterdam. (Insert boo’s and hisses here.)

                I won’t try to paint Amsterdam’s soon to be obsolete marijuana laws in a perfect light. Laws, no matter the subject are by their very nature imperfect. They are created by man; a very imperfect creature indeed. However, in the twelve visits I have paid to the city in the last twenty years, I can say one thing. It has worked! Imperfect but it has worked. Where there used to be a street peddles every one hundred feet trying to sell you drugs, albeit fake, there are nearly all gone now. In my last two visits, April 2007 and December of 2011, I was free two wander that beautiful town free of pestering.

                In the war against marijuana and the very right to govern ourselves, Amsterdam has been the Philadelphia of the cause. And now sadly it’s been besieged by conservatives. Conservatives however, that in some ways may not be all wrong. If we have been irresponsible and immature as guests in their country, then we don’t deserve the right to consume marijuana in their homeland. Decriminalized in Amsterdam 1976 marijuana became, unfortunately, one of the city’s calling cards. I say unfortunately because it became a magnet for people going there just for that. And for that reason these new laws are taking effect. Sadly, people going there for the coffee-shops alone wasted their trip. With over forty museums and almost a millennia of history, I’ll say it again, they wasted their trip. 

                When we can act responsibly, and only when we can do so do we deserve the right. So it is our duty to take in every point of view on the matter and act accordingly. The Dutch citizens have proven themselves responsible enough to retain their right to consume. May we learn from our mistakes, whether fact or fabricated and strive to earn the right to do the same. It is not about the right to smoke marijuana. It is about the right to govern oneself; a God given right! ~


The End of Amsterdam


(Or the beginning of personal accountability?)

                It’s said that all good things must end. This thought ran through my mind not long ago after reading an article in issue #22 of Treating Yourself. Based in Ontario, Canada, Treating Yourself is a periodical loosely based around the medical marijuana movement.

                “The current affair in the Netherlands”, an article written by Harry Resin emphasizes the decline of the cannabis friendly side of Amsterdam and Holland in general. This decline in hemp hospitality, as alarming as it is, isn’t new; and for good reason. I don’t mean to step on some toes with this one, but I am afraid I may do just that. So please allow me to apologize in advance.

                Maybe it’s my age but after multiple visits to Amsterdam (11 in the past 19 years), I am beginning to side a little with the conservatives. Mr. “Resin” notes the slow disappearance of the city’s spirit/soul “zeitgeist”. And he fears what he calls the growing presence of a “pseudo-police state”. Something you wouldn’t have seen a decade ago. I agree, to a point. I welcome the police presence in Amsterdam and I will explain why.

                Amsterdam has always been a very forward thinking, open minded and liberal city, and in the 1960’s in particular, even more so. When San Fransisco had Haight-Ashbury, Amsterdam had Vondel Park; sister cities in mind and spirit. However, when the 60’s began growing to a close and the American government began severely cracking down on all drugs, Holland allowed its citizens to govern themselves. Marijuana was decriminalized and “coffeeshops”, establishments for the sale and consumption of marijuana, sprang up by the hundreds practically overnight.

                Fast forward four-plus decades; not too long ago a naïve tourist couldn’t walk through “old” Amsterdam without being hustled to buy cocaine, LSD, PCP or heroin. These “salesmen” as I will refer to them, sell powdered sugar as cocaine and tiny pieces of paper as “acid” to ignorant tourists who visit there with the ideal that is what the city is all about. And by the time the tourist realizes the joke is on them, their “salesman” has disappeared into the labyrinth of streets. And in my opinion, they get what they deserve. Thankfully the police presence in Amsterdam has made a significant impact in the reduction of these annoying peddlers.

                Here is where I may begin to step on toes. The problem with a lot of marijuana smokers, myself included (in my younger years), is we don’t think outside the bong. A major problem with the coffeeshops, in the eyes of the conservatives of the Dutch government, is that the shops can be magnets; magnets for every dumb ass smoker with a plane ticket and a lighter from the U.S., Canada, France and Australia. Four countries who’s governments have their boots on the necks of marijuana smokers.

                So when we finally make to Amsterdam we act like we just turned 21. We just have to see just how trashed we can get. And a good portion of neophytes unfortunately, make complete asses out of themselves not long after arriving; thus pissing off the locals. Put yourself in their clogs for a moment. Would you like a pub 2 blocks away from your home where 7 days a week, 365 days a year for the past 50 years obnoxious, loud tourists keep you up all hours of the night? Didn’t think so.

                Here is my opinion. If we want the RIGHT to smoke marijuana, then we have to ACT like we DESERVE the right to smoke marijuana. It’s not rocket science. If your kid can’t behave after a bowl of fruit loops, you don’t let them have any more fruit loops. Point being, if we want the right to smoke marijuana we have to act responsibly before, during, and after consumption. We can no longer afford to run around like red-eyed, tie-dyed, wanna be hippy slackers! Whether you and I like to admit it, in order to change the rules of the game we must first understand and play by the rules of the game. And we can never expect real change if we are too stoned to seriously work towards that change. ~