August 07


Drugs in Amsterdam: Yay or Nay?

“They might close down coffee shops in Amsterdam” my Dutch colleague tells me, one month prior to my move there.

“But why?” I asked, appalled by the thought that the Government had somehow decided to swoop in and take away all of Dutch’s access to caffeine. Are they not worried that it’s going to impact their workforce somehow?

My colleagues looked at me in confusion. Then noticed my confusion, and explained that coffee shops in the Netherlands didn’t exactly sell coffee. Instead, they sell drugs (typically softer stuff like weed. Mushrooms and other hallucinogens are actually banned). Now why do they actually call these places coffee shops? I have absolutely no idea. Perhaps to make a visit to the establishments sound less sleazy.


Once I moved there, I had a lot of friends who wanted to ‘visit’. re: come over, stay at mine and smoke up. One of them actually did, and this is the coffee shop story.

DSC_0012(Coffee shops can be found pretty much all over Amsterdam; even near bars and in main areas like Leidseplein)

People think that drugs are fun, or cool, or something along those lines. Let me be here to tell you that drugs are BAD. They’re not “cool” and they can leave a scar on your well being as well as stain’s that would never disappear from your home.

V came over to try out some weed in a coffee shop. To enter, they actually do check out your ID to make sure you’re above 18. You go downstairs and buy whatever you want from the counter (much like a bar), you then take your produce and go to a separated room to smoke up (imagine a smoking corner). It’s illegal to smoke outside in public.

V excitedly lit up the joint, and started huffing and puffing, waiting for it to take effect. I sat there in the smog of the smoke, thinking it was going to take some heavy duty dry cleaning to get the smell off me. I watched in anticipation of any kind of behavior change V may have.


Nothing. No effect. And V goes home disappointed.

(Inside a coffee shop. Source:

Two days later, we ventured into the coffee shop again. V determined to try and get high just to see how it feels. V buys a muffin then. Pretty much cooked with some kind of concoction that involves weed vapor I think. V comes home prepared in anticipation.

The label on the muffin reads: Eat half if you’re not experienced, and the other half at least 30 minutes after. V eats half the muffin and waits. An hour later V gets annoyed that there still is no effect and eats the other half. Nothing. We go to bed.

amsterdam-coffee-shop-menu(Weed menu. Source:

In the middle of the night V gets up disoriented. She stares up at the ceiling and calls out for a doctor. She describes the feeling of cold sweat, of having the world spin out of control. She runs to the bathroom and you can hear the sounds of vomit. She tells me later that she was expelling out of both ends. That the last thing she wanted was to get caught with her pants down and her head in the toilet bowl. That even though she felt like she was dying, she had to pull herself together and pull her pants up. Because if she didn’t die that night from the drugs, she was going to die from embarrassment of getting caught by me in that situation.

A doctor was called (because in Amsterdam you can call doctors 24/7) and the situation explained. The doctor was completely blasé about things, while I was freaking out. The doctor mentioned that all you had to do was drink water and relax, and eventually it would get out of the system. Getting V to sleep that night was difficult. She kept worrying she was going to die. But eventually she slept, and the next morning she awoke, with a massive headache and an out of body experience.

She looks at me and says “Whoever said drugs are fun are fucking idiots”


*** Note: Foreigners are able to still enter and enjoy coffee shops in Amsterdam. However a 2012 ruling has banned foreigners from entering coffee shops in other areas of the Netherlands, most notoriously border towns like those next to Germany. Coffee shops in the Netherlands are heavily regulated, monitored and legal. But do be responsible, and in event of any side effects, do call one of the emergency lines.