The End of Amsterdam

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(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. ~