The Coffee Shops and the 2014 High Times Cannabis Cup

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel December 1, 2014

    Amsterdam CoffeeshopI just returned from the High Times Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, and thought I might share some thoughts about the state of the legalization efforts in the Netherlands, as contrasted to the US.

    The Coffee Shops

    Amsterdam is famous for its coffee shops, where those over 18 are permitted to purchase and enjoy marijuana. But in recent years the Dutch government has taken steps to close a few of the shops, and limit the amount which one can purchase to five grams from any one shop. Yet, despite these changes, coffee shops remain plentiful and high quality marijuana remains convenient to anyone in Amsterdam.

    Importantly for us Americans, contrary to the public statements issued by government officials in recent months declaring the coffee shops are off-limits to foreigners, fear not; there are coffee shops in nearly every block in downtown Amsterdam and I visited at least eight of them during my five days in the country, and never once did anyone ask if I were a citizen of the Netherlands. And in many of the coffee shops I visited, there were several other American tourists also enjoying this unique experience, along with plenty of locals as well.

    To read the balance of this column, please go to Marijuana.com.

    35 responses to “The Coffee Shops and the 2014 High Times Cannabis Cup”

    1. TheOracle says:

      Maastricht in Limburg Province was received massive complaints from its downtown inhabitants about all the foreigners clogging up the streets and taking up all the parking, so they wanted to move their coffeeshops to the outskirts of town on the Belgian side, and then the Belgians bitched, pissed, and moaned, so now you need to be a resident, basically if you go to a coffeeshop in Limburg.

      And I read in the Dutch newspaper Het Parool that lord mayor of Amsterdam shut down the High Times Cannabis Cup Amsterdam at the Radion dance club because that club didn’t have the exploitation permit (exploitatievergunning)and that someone filed the application only 12 days before the event was to begin. Dutch authorities easily take several months just to process your residency permit (verblijfsvergunning) or whatever kind of permit. And the lord mayor was pissed that the same outfits that in past years were selling weed and giving away free samples at the Cup were back again this time.

      I don’t know if that’s been going on the entire time since the beginning of High Times’ Cannabis Cup in Mokum but Minister Ivo Opstelten has been exerting his prohibitionist influences on as many people and jurisdictions as he can.

      Have you enlisted the help of Nol van Schaik, and considered moving the Cup to Haarlem? It’s not that far away. Utrecht also has its own Cannabis Cup at its Jaarbeurs trade center. Both cities are super easy to get to by train from Centraal Station in Amsterdam. You just need a hotel back in Amsterdam the night before you leave because trains don’t run at all hours between the cities.

    2. Peter says:

      I spent 5 glorious days in Amsterdam back in 1989. Loved the coffee shops and the whole experience.

    3. MSimon says:

      I posted this at Marijuana.com but it bears repeating.


      Howard Wooldridge is working to get the UN to change its stance on drugs and particularly cannabis to some effect. He recently hosted a German and French delegation to Colorado to see how things were going there. The two delegations were favorably impressed.

      You can expect to see his report here:


      in a few days. If you want to get the reports earlier sign up for his newsletter.

    4. Julian says:

      It sounds a little less like “Prohibitionist” behavior and more like old fashioned Dutch pride and sovereignty and the fate of the sacred parking space. The United States built our parking lots in paradise long after the horse-drawn carriage, so I don’t believe we have the same problems as Amsterdam.
      What interest me in comparison to Holland is that they are have much tighter, smaller border security issues. Germany has traditionally been as prohibitionist as the U.S. up until recent times, making it very risky to forget a seed in your pocket when traveling to and from.
      Here in the U.S., by contrast, we suffer from the Republican rhetoric of “securing our borders first,” while our domestic drug policy deports locally bred gangsters without telling their country of deportation the criminal records of the deportee. Then we wonder why we have child refugees flocking across the border? Our border is MUCH larger and MUCH more dynamic in comparison to Holland when we consider the hemp coming from Canada and the marijuana coming from Mexico while demand for cannabis grows in a new domestic cannabis industry.
      Furthermore, Dutch law technically says marijuana is illegal but “tolerated,” which is clearly not what we’re aiming for here in the U.S. We want commercially taxed, small farm subsidized and free residential personal use of all forms of cannabis.
      I guess we all have to deal with our own legal and cultural hypocrisies. It’s a fine line between being proud and being too proud…

    5. Fireweed says:

      I was in Colorado in September and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The benefits to health and sense of wellbeing are so significant, and the myths that prevent it from being legal worldwide are so illogical that it becomes a human rights issue.

    6. TheOracle says:


      The Netherlands is a signatory to the Schengen Agreement, which means there are No border checkpoints. It’s like driving from one state to another in the CONUS. German Police run patrols on the border routes, and profile people then pull them over to search the vehicles, catching Little fish, mainly day trippers going to kofieshops to load up for themselves, family and friends then back home again. You can get wiet and hasj in Görlitzer Park in Berlin; it’s like Washington Park in The Big Apple, sold mostly by (illegal) immigrants.

      Among the things you mentioned about commercially produced and taxed cannabis products legal in the US, I would like to emphasize that I want the sale of viable cannabis seeds to be legal, also!!!!!!!!!!

      You can get viable quality cannabis seeds in The Netherlands (Holland is only the part that was reclaimed from the sea basically)in Austria, the UK, Canada, Spain, but the feds put Marc Emery away for, they say, shipping the cannabis consumers in the US, many of whom no doubt where medical marijuana patients in states where even medical marijuana is prohibited, and they were treating themselves or self-medicating. And, the reason they were/are self-medicating is because the federal government has systematically blocked research and put up roadblocks one after the other to thwart the truth and legalisation.

      Minister Opstelten wants any cannabis product of more than 15% THC to be classified and punished by the law as a hard drug such as heroin. He definitely is a prohibitionist.

      For more, see this link to a Cannabis Culture article and the posted comments.


    7. Brenton says:

      I have lived in Colorado for several years, and even before A64, it was not a very big deal at all, though it is nice to officially have some peace of mind finally. However, it is very much a human rights issue, as I find out every time I leave to visit family in Ohio, where marijuana (even though decriminalized since the 70’s) can get you into big trouble via municipal codes in various cities. It is absolutely evil for a government with ballot initiative process to undermine the will of voters by making legislation on a city by city basis recriminalizing a plant voters chose to decriminalize. Corruption is rampant, and police have taken my marijuana and pulled down the alley to smoke it…I saw their lighters flickering in their cruiser, and saw the smoke rolling out the window and could even hear them coughing. It is scary to think that what is perfectly legal in one place is a huge deal in most of the same country. More needs to be done for sure. I feel like Anne Frank when lighting up in the privacy of a friend or relative’s house, worried overzealous police will burst through the door. (I’m a Jew also lol, so please, no calling me anti-Semitic for that comment. I’m being quite literal.)

    8. Voice of the Resistance says:

      I’d like to think other nations would take note of our nations huge national debut, crumbling infrastructure, and policy of mass incarnation, and move away from the failed policy of prohibition.

    9. cris neke says:

      Once the public becomes aware of the fact that properly made Cannabis Oil medicine can cure or control practically any medical condition, who is going to stand up against the use of Medical Marijuana.
      “A toke a day keeps the Doctor Away?”
      Learn to make your own oil as well as order Cannabis oil or Cannabis strains .

    10. Todd says:

      Amsterdam has to exist since it represents an ideal. Maybe it is a doorway to enlightenment that must remain open. Wake up America. Democracy is also ideal, not an entitlement or a patented implementation or lengthy political process, just simply a right to vote on current issues and to have your vote count towards policy within a timely fashion.