There are more than 300 marijuana and hashish selling coffeeshops in Amsterdam. So how do you know where to go and what to order?
The locals have their favorite places to hangout and buy smoke, the ex-patriats theirs. Some places are fun to linger in while you fire up a big fat doobie, others are best just to score da kine shit and leave. So how do you know which is best?
Our Coffeeshop Guide has reviews of 45 of the most popular coffeeshops in Amsterdam with visitor comments. This should give you a good idea of what's available and what our visitors think about each one. We also have a Coffeeshop List that ranks each coffeeshop on a range of criteria including smoke and ambiance.
In addition we've written a series of articles on Coffeeshop Rip-offs to warn you about how the coffeeshop system works and how to avoid getting fucked over when you go to buy weed.
Now I'm going to give you some more advice about purchasing mj and hash from Amsterdam's coffeeshops.
1. Never buy anything labeled "Thai" or "Colombian". They are both the same shit swag of dubious origin that gets stockpiled by distributors just so the coffeeshops have something cheap to sell. Even if you could smoke this it still won't get you high like anything else on that menu. So don't waste your money on this. I object strongly to this practice and plead with the coffeeshop owners to stop selling this mislabeled shit to the public. If you won't smoke it yourself (and no coffeeshop owners would be caught dead smoking such shit), then don't sell it! Once upon a time the Dutch imported quality grass from around the world. Now all the good grass sold in Amsterdam is European grown.
2. Buy Organic! The Dutch really don't give a shit what they put into their marijuana plants during the growth cycle. They put tons of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides on their plants without regard to the end result. Their only concern is maximizing their yield and profit, not taste or health. This callous disregard for their customers is very typically Dutch, who are not noted for their service culture. The result of these practices is overfertilized, chemical tasting weed, that can often leave you wishing you'd never smoked it. And yet you pay a very high price for what many connoseiurs consider to be unsmokeable weed.
So to find that really pure, clean, sweet tasting smoke, you're going to have to hunt a little harder. Certain coffeeshops pride themselves on having a small selection of organically grown weed. Some shops only say that there is no pesticide in their pot. What about man-made fertilizers and fungicides? Sorry they don't want to talk about that.
Even the stuff labeled "bio" doesn't mean it's organic, only that it's been grown in soil. The Dutch word for organic is "biologisch" which still doesn't register with the Dutch coffeeshops as being organic, but you're getting closer. So be specific, and ask for "organically grown" cannabis. They'll know what you mean. But that STILL doesn't guarantee that what they put in front of you is really organic, as the European organic certification does not extend to marijuana sold in coffeeshops. Most coffeeshops do not grow their own weed and so must rely upon the word of the growers.
If you're used to buying weed in the US or from other "third-world" sources, chances are you've been getting organically grown weed. Hash from the same sources is likewise untainted by chemical since the growers in places like Morocco can't afford these enhancements. Only the Dutch have made a regular practice of putting almost every agricultural chemical known to man on marijuana. And it really shows.
Don't encourage this practice. Buy organic and you'll be happier, healthier and higher.
3. Buy it cured! The Dutch smoke pot and tobacco together, so they prefer their cannabis relatively wet. As a result most pot sold in coffeeshops hasn't been properly cured. It smells stronger and weighs more than properly cured weed. If you like it like that, fine. But those who like to smoke pure cannabis joints need drier pot to keep it lit. You'll never keep wet pot lit for long. So ask for well cured pot (but not the brown dried out shit they sell as Thai or Columbian. See #1.) Remember, properly cured buds are going to be a much better deal (lighter) than wet buds.
4. Shake, Shake, Shake. Thanks to the soaring demand for Ice hash, those buds sold in coffeeshops have now been shaken once or several times to remove the big THC laden tricomes for hash. So what you're buying is inferior, weakened buds that bear little resemblence potency-wise to what was actually grown. This is not just a shame, it's a rip-off and we discuss this practice in our article "Shake and Sell". Look for sticky buds covered in white tricomes. Most of the pot sold in Amsterdam was like that once, but not anymore. Want to find out what's missing from that gram you bought? Try some nederhash/ice hash and you'll find out. Of course you're gonna pay a big price for it. At least two to three times what you paid for the bud it came from. So now the Dutch have ripped you off twice!
And speaking of hashish, realize that the ice hash has the highest THC content of anything you can buy in Amsterdam. So it's very potent and a little goes a long way. But because it's so pure, there's less flavor. If you're looking for the exotic flavors of Moroccan, Afghani or Nepalese hashish, you'll want to try those varieties instead. Each country's traditionally processed hashish has a unique flavor due to the growing conditions, genetics and processing techniques. Unfortunately the quality of most black hashish has declined over the years, with only the top quality Moroccan and ice hash winning the awards these days. You should also be aware that adulterants and contaminants including opium often appear in black hashish, adding odd flavors. Yet most traditional hashish is still made from organically grown cannabis.
5. What to buy? There are now so many types of cannabis available in Amsterdam, nobody can keep track of them. It seems like there's a new variety every day. The breeders have been very busy creating new strains for your smoking pleasure. Nevertheless, everyone seems to have their favorite. Yet I feel we've almost reached overload with so many types. It's become a big ego trip for the breeders to the point where seeds are more important than the resulting smoke. The Dutch care more about which variety they're growing than the way in which it is grown. As a result you can buy variety A in coffeeshop X, and it may taste like crap because it's been overfertilized, underflushed, badly cured, and heavily shaken. Then you go to coffeeshop Y and buy the same variety A and it's been grown organically, well cured and unshaken and it's a whole 'nother experience. So I put little stake in the variety, and much more in the way it's been grown and processed.
This makes it difficult when trying to decide what to pick from a menu, with a line of jonesin' folks behind you at the dealers counter. How do you know which one is best? Well, you could start by asking the dealer. Remember you local dealer back home? He should know what he's selling right? So should the dealers in Amsterdam's coffeeshops. But the reality is some do, some don't. Ask questions to find out.
Here's a few good ones to ask:
Is it organically grown?
Has it been shaken to make hash?
Is it cured well, not too wet?
Does it taste fresh and sweet or like chemicals?
Is it a heavy or light high?
If you get attitude when asking these questions, just say never mind, and go somewhere else. A good dealer SHOULD know the answers.
Better still, you could just ask for what you want. Like: "A gram of organically grown, well cured, sweet-tasting, unshaken, 100% sativa, please." Of course the dealer'll probably just roll his eyes if he doesn't crackup laughing at you. That's because it's highly unlikely you'd find that particular order in any Amsterdam coffeeshop. But it doesn't hurt to try, and let them know what you really want to be smoking, not what they want to sell you.
6. Get it cheaper! Yes, you can pay less than 7-10 Euros a gram for the good shit. The easiest way is to get out of downtown Amsterdam, go to the suburbs or Haarlem and you'll find great smoke for 5-7 Euros a gram. You'll still run into some of the problems mentioned above, but at least you're paying less for it. You can also sometimes get a deal on quantity, but this rarely happens anymore, since coffeeshops are now limited to 5 grams per customer per day.
Coffeeshops aren't the only ones selling weed of course. You're always admonished NOT to buy anything from the street dealers, and of course this applies to cannabis as well. You WILL get ripped off, guaranteed. However there are other people, often small time growers or their friends who have quantities (usually organically grown) to sell at very good wholesale prices. You won't find these people on a casual visit to the city, as you must make friends and get to know the scene before anyone would offer you a deal. I won't go into this, as this trade is very low key and frowned upon by the Dutch authorities, but it does exist and some of the best cannabis around never makes it to the coffeeshops.
There is a booming export business for those who deal in kilo quantities, but NOT in Amsterdam. Along the Dutch borders with Germany and Belgium people try to smuggle out larger quantities and are regularly caught by Dutch or German or Belgium or French police. The business is so big thanks to the booming border towns catering to the cannabis needs of other Europeans. These border towns are near some of the biggest grow operations in Holland. We don't recommend anyone try to smuggle any cannabis products, as it's just not worth the risk. Those who do it regularly are well organized, tightly-knit groups and know exactly what they're doing.
7. Roll your own, smoke your own. The American practice of sharing joints has never caught on in Holland. The Dutch roll their own tobacco laced joints and like to smoke it themselves. Oh they'll occasionally pass it to a friend, but it's not an ingrained social custom here. Needless to say, it's smart not share your joints or pipe with strangers. It might seem impolite not to pass it around, but these days you never know what else you might be passing around along with that joint. Be smart, smoke it yourself or only with those you know. Practice safe smoke.
8. Don't over do it! I wish I could count the number of people I've seen pass out in coffeeshops right in front of me. Whether they had too much to smoke, or too good smoke, or too much space cake, or too much beer and smoke, or it's their first time smoking strong cannabis, or they smoked a tobacco joint without knowing, the result is the same, unconsciousness. It can be very dangerous as people go down fast, sometimes hitting a very hard surface. If this happens, sugar water or juice will quickly get him/her on their feet again.
It's better to prevent this from happening by moderating your intake of cannabis at first. Don't start your day by eating space cake cause you won't remember the rest of the day. Go easy on the booze. Some people can't handle both booze and pot together. EAT! Don't go drinking and smoking on an empty stomach as cannabis lowers your blood sugar level and this can be bad if you haven't eaten recently.
If someone passes you a joint, ALWAYS ask whether it has tobacco in it, if you don't smoke tobacco. There's a better than 50-50 chance it will have tobacco, so don't make any assumptions.
And of course you should know your limits. Even those who smoke regularly might not be prepared for the good shit (assuming you were able to find it). Take it slow and easy at first. You just got here, you're not going anywhere, the smoke's gonna be around, so take it nice and easy.
9. Where to smoke. You can light up in any of the 300 or so coffeeshops in Amsterdam or around Holland, but smoking weed elsewhere could cause problems. The Dutch frown upon public smoking of cannabis, but as long as you keep it low key and not too obvious you can get away with a lot. If you smoke a pure joint it will smell a lot worse than a tobacco joint, and be more obvious to the public. But you don't need to worry you'll get busted. If someone tells you you can't smoke here, don't argue, just say "sorry" and put it out. The worst that would happen is an embarrasing moment.
You certainly don't want to smoke in restaurants or other in other businesses unless you see others doing it and getting away with it. It's not quite like Spain where people seem to light up anywhere these days. Be discreet. Hotels vary on their cannabis smoking policies. Most simply don't allow it, and will cause you trouble if you do. The worst attitude would be in the high class hotels. Certain low key hotels do allow smoking or have a place like a bar where you can smoke. Most, but not all of these, are around the Red Light District and some even have their own coffeeshop downstairs. To be safe, just ask if it's permitted and where.
10. Joint, pipe or bong? This depends upon personal preference. Certainly it's more convenient if you're going to be bopping around to have a few doobies ready to go. Often I've been caught outside in Amsterdam's notorious wind trying to roll a joint. This can be very frustrating. My preference is for a bong or water pipe to filter the carcinogen-laden tar from the smoke. Most coffeeshops have a bong or two behind the counter, and will loan it to you. But I don't recommend this as you really don't know who's had their lips all over it and they're usually very dirty.
If you're going to be around for a few days and prefer water filtration, I suggest you purchase a small water pipe or bong in a headshop. You won't find a better selection anywhere. I recommend the Old Indian headshop. If you're going to smoke in your hotel, I recommend smoking hashish thru a waterpipe to release the least amount of smelly smoke. Remember don't take any used parapernalia back home with you. You'll get busted. So just buy something cheap and give it away or throw it away before you leave.