So, you’re planning on a visit to Amsterdam, and of course you want to check out a coffeeshop or two. Obviously, everything will be chill, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no etiquette. For example, did you know that you can’t buy alcohol in a coffeeshop? Check out our guide to ensure that your first coffeeshop visit will be a smooth experience!
The city of Amsterdam is well known for its unique cannabis coffeeshops. It’s no wonder millions of people flock there every year to get a taste of the high life.
But if you’ve never been to a coffeeshop before, it’s easy to be intimidated. You want to make sure you don’t come off looking inexperienced.
It’s important that you know the difference between a coffeeshop and a cafe. Although those terms are synonymous in some parts of the world, a cafe typically means a bar or a restaurant. And believe us: Cannabis use is not allowed in these places.
Also, sometimes a coffeeshop is just a coffee shop! Sound confusing? That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide for beginners.
Before you even get to the coffeeshop, you have to know how to find it! Licensed shops will always have a white and green sign in front of their establishment, indicating that cannabis use is permitted in that area.
But it’s important to remember that when visiting a coffeeshop in Amsterdam, you need to be very respectful of the establishment and the people that work there and patronize it.
This is a good rule to have during all international travel. But many people are used to using weed in the privacy of their own homes, and might not be accustomed to being high with so many people around.
1. Do your best to blend In
Realize that although your setting may bring you anxiety, you are still in a public place and you need to act accordingly. Try your best to not make a scene or a show of yourself.
Although coffeeshops in the Netherlands will generally have a chill atmosphere, there are many people that will want to keep to themselves, and you should respect that.
When you enter the shop, pay attention to the norms. If there is a line, don’t go straight up to the counter to ask a question, wait your turn. The staff will not take well to customers that are unruly, and you may be asked to leave.
2. Always buy a drink
Quite often, it’s not a problem to bring your own weed or paraphernalia. Do check this though, since it’s not always allowed. They’ll say it at the door, or you can just ask.
If you’re indeed bringing your own stash, make sure to order drinks! Obviously, it’d be hard for coffeeshops to keep existing if you don’t spend any cash there at all.
But… don’t expect to quench your thirst with an alcoholic drink. These coffeeshops are not allowed to sell alcohol, as the law strictly prohibits marijuana and alcohol to be sold by the same establishment.
Purchase a good cup of coffee, soda, juice, or water, and then ask the staff member at the counter your marijuana questions.
When dealing with the staff at an Amsterdam coffeeshop, know that they are there to assist. It’s okay to go into the shop knowing exactly what you want, but don’t try to dazzle the staff with your encyclopaedic weed knowledge.
It’s considered very uncouth, and you’ll probably just be holding up the line. Once you purchase your stuff, know that it can only be smoked or consumed within the shop itself, or in a private location.
Using marijuana in the streets is generally forbidden, and can result in fines if you are unruly. Not all locals might appreciate you smoking weed in public, and it might get you into an unnecessary confrontation.
Know your drug
If you’ve never used weed before, you should know what you are getting into. Marijuana affects everybody differently. The same amount of weed that gets you extremely high could barely affect your friends.
It essentially depends on the strain of weed you will be consuming and the way you will be consuming it. Always ask staff members at the counter what effects a specific strain tends to have.
If you are prone to anxiety, choose a strain that has the tendency to calm people down, like the soothing Northern Lights, the earthy OG Kush, the spicy & sweet AK-48, or the classic White Widow. If you’re looking for an energizing strain, you could try some Durban Poison or New Purple Power. It’s likely that the coffeeshop has at least one strain that suits your temperament.
1. Choose how you consume wisely
The effect marijuana will have on you also depends greatly on your method of consumption. In a coffeeshop, smoking joints are much more common than using bongs or bowls.
In fact, if you are bringing your own paraphernalia, it’s better to bring a small piece than an elaborate contraption.
If you’re buying pre-rolled joints, know that there are two different types: joints with tobacco and without. Joints with tobacco will likely be much cheaper than pure joints, and they are the most common way to smoke in the Netherlands.
Most coffeeshops (especially those catering to tourists) will also sell pre-rolled joints without tobacco though. It’s also always just an option to buy weed or hash, grab some rolling papers, and roll your own.
If you’re planning on consuming weed inside the coffeeshops: Most of them allow you to do so, but only if whatever you’re smoking doesn’t contain tobacco. The Dutch smoking ban is limited to tobacco only, lucky you!
2. Use caution with edibles
Another common way to consume weed is through edibles. Typically, edibles will come in the form of baked goods, made with hash oil or cannabutter.
Although edibles are a great alternative for those who are not comfortable with smoking, their effects can be somewhat jarring if you have never taken them before.
Depending on various factors, edibles can work very slowly. If you have eaten a big meal beforehand, edibles can take an hour or two to kick in. If you eat one on an empty stomach, you will feel the effects much quicker and stronger.
However, it is not recommended to ingest an edible on an empty stomach because you may have minor indigestion. The cannabis will likely also cause substantial munchies later on, which will be mitigated if you eat beforehand.
3. Don’t overdo it
It’s always better to take an edible a few bites at a time, especially if you don’t have much experience with them. Remember, you are in a public place, and you want to maintain the standards of etiquette as much as possible.
Because they often take a while to react with your body, people tend to eat them too quickly. This can result in an overwhelming high. If you are uncomfortable by this high and you telegraph it to those around you, you will surely stand out.
Don’t underestimate the power of cannabis from coffeeshops in Amsterdam. It’s likely that the weed they sell is much stronger than anything found by your personal dealer at home. Keep that in mind when you are consuming it.
Know the law
It’s crucial that you know the law when you visit Amsterdam. International tourists can get into trouble for not being versed in the restrictions involving marijuana.
Amsterdam’s attitude on weed may seem to be fairly liberal, but the fact is, outside of a coffeeshop, the drug is technically illegal. If you are caught with weed outside of these shops, you might be reprimanded.
It’s obviously also not advisable to try to travel with large quantities of weed, for safety and security reasons.
Cannabis laws in The Netherlands are extremely counterintuitive. Although purchasing weed and smoking inside coffeeshops has been decriminalized, it’s actually illegal to grow the marijuana for resale in coffeeshops.
Under 5 plants per individual is considered personal use, but the larger growers that coffeeshops purchase from are not operating within the boundaries of the law. So if coffeeshops can sell the stuff, but they’re not allowed to buy it themselves, how does that make sense? You’re right, it doesn’t!
Smoking weed in public is technically illegal, although you are unlikely to get in trouble from the authorities because of it. Still, as stated before, it is somewhat frowned upon.
A coffeeshop is allowed to sell weed because they adhere to certain rules: every buyer must be over 18, no minors can be allowed in the shops, and they must not sell over 5 grams. Fun fact: 5 grams is also the maximum amount of cannabis you can have on you without being prosecuted.
Also, they are discouraged from blatantly advertising that they sell weed, and for security reasons, they cannot keep large amounts of weed on the premises at one time.
Local municipalities can elect to shut down coffeeshops as they wish, because they are technically not legal. The existence of coffeeshops is only possible because of trust between the people, business owners, and government.
So, don’t expect to be able to buy large quantities! You can visit several coffeeshops and collect a bunch of weed, but that does mean that have more than you are allowed to possess without getting in trouble when caught.
Be smart and savvy
As a tourist, the most important rule to remember is to be smart while traveling. As you are probably aware, weed is not widely tolerated in Europe, and it still illegal to transport the drug across country lines.
People who arrive at a coffeeshop in a large group often find themselves in a predicament. Some coffeeshops will not let them in the building, as large groups are often frowned upon.
Furthermore, even though the weed in Amsterdam is affordable, it’s not dirt cheap. Only purchase what you can handle so you don’t waste your money. You obviously won’t be able to bring it back home with you.
It’s also a common misconception that it is okay to smoke in any cannabis coffeeshop. Although the majority of them allow it, some of them are only sellers. Many Amsterdam coffeeshops have designated smoking sections.
Buy only from credible retailers
Never, ever buy weed from a lone dealer on the street. These dealers are not established vendors, and purchasing their weed is illegal. If you are spotted by the police, you will face consequences.
You also never know what weed purchased on the street could be cut with or laced with, and it’s better to purchase your weed from a coffeeshop with a good reputation.
Sometimes, these dealers can try to force you to purchase their drugs. If this is the case, try to get away as quickly as possible and alert the police. It’s likely that these drugs are not what they say they are.
Furthermore, be aware of the many stands and roadside stalls offering discounted marijuana cookies and confections. It is very likely that there is no marijuana in these at all. There are many people that will try to take advantage of tourists.
Make sure you also know the rules of where you will be staying. A lot of hotels and hostels do not allow smoking or ingesting drugs on their property, and you could lose money if you do.
As always, be safe about using drugs in a foreign city. Don’t walk alone late at night while on drugs, and make sure someone always knows where you are.
Visiting a coffeeshop in Amsterdam is a must
If you are apprehensive about visiting a coffeeshop while you are in the city, realize that you will be missing out on a unique cultural experience.
The marijuana laws in your country or state may be strict, and the culture surrounding weed in your area may be very conservative.
But by not paying a visit to one of these establishments, you’re depriving yourself of the chance to do as the locals do and really immerse yourself in the culture.
You don’t even have to indulge in marijuana if you don’t want to! After all, these are just “Coffeeshops!”
Keep an open mind
Even if a coffeeshop might not seem like your thing, many of these shops are more than just people getting stoned. They often have board games, video games, trivia nights, and movies to keep you occupied.
Feel free to visit multiple coffeeshops to find the one that’s perfect for you and your group!
But don’t let Amsterdam’s lax reputation fool you. There are many rules that you have to be aware of. It’s easy for tourists that are not in the know to get in trouble with the authorities.
Follow the guide detailed above down to the letter, and you should have no problems blending in and having a relaxing, carefree holiday.
Did you visit any coffeeshops in Amsterdam? What did you think? We hope you had a great time, share your stories in the comments!