The Dutch have an attitude of tolerance dating back to the 16th century when they forced out the Spanish and their inquisition. Since then, the Dutch make a point of not criminalizing or feigning moral outrage at victimless “crimes”. Prostitution, pornography, homosexuality, euthanasia, and soft drug use are all tolerated and integrated into Dutch society. This permissiveness has resulted in Holland becoming a mecca for those who wish to experience the freedom of cannabis culture, and the flowering of a highly successful coffeeshop scene where marijuana and hashish are legally available for purchase by the public.
The “coffeeshop” is a unique Dutch institution. For over 20 years, coffeeshops have operated with quasi-legal status in the Netherlands. Although there is no law that allows for the production and distribution of large quantities of marijuana and hashish, the Dutch tolerate the presence of coffeeshops because they separate the soft drug users from the hard drug dealers. This makes it less likely that someone desiring cannabis would end up purchasing a more dangerous drug, and keeps a whole market away from the illegal drug trade. The Dutch attitude towards drugs is very straight forward. If you have a drug problem they want to help you, not persecute you! Recreational use of soft drugs is seen as being less harmful to society than persecution and incarceration.
The recently restored Dam square (above) is where the Amstel dam was located, which gave Amsterdam it’s name. The square is used for official events, festivals, concerts, and an occasional market. The Royal Palace, the Niewe Kerk, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, the Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky, De Bijenkorf – a department store, all face the square. In the center of the Dam is a monument to Holland’s WWII dead. It’s a good place to get your bearings or hang out for a bit and watch the city go by.
There’s much to explore in this area and the many streets leading… Continue reading