Amsterdam coffee shops – the inside scoop

Amsterdam is an exciting cultural center, full of houseboats and bicycles, trains, museums, a legendary red light district with legal drugs and the one thing which seems to come to many minds first: coffee shops where you can buy and smoke pot.

Cannabis is decriminalized and cheap in Amsterdam, and you can buy seeds at shops like the Sensi Seed Bank all over town. You can also buy a lot of other things (see the gallery for goods like magic mushrooms, herbal opium and liquid coke). That doesn’t mean there are no rules; for one thing, you can’t smoke marijuana in the street — though that’s even less well-enforced that it is in NYC; not very well — and you can’t smoke it in bars, either. There is no alcohol permitted in coffee shops, and no pot where you can buy alcohol. In other words, in Amsterdam, you have to pick your poison.
You also have to be 18 or older to purchase cannabis (prices are in the gallery), and coffee shops are only permitted to sell 5 grams to a person at a time. There is a tobacco ban in Amsterdam, so if you want to smoke regular cigarettes or marijuana blended with tobacco, you must find a shop with a sealed area designated for tobacco smoking.Like in American coffee shops, when you enter a coffee shop in Amsterdam like The Bushdocter Coffeeshop, above, you walk up to the counter to place your order, then take your selections to your seat. You’ll find there is a menu of coffee and tea, but the first thing you’ll be presented with at the counter is their list of marijuana wares. Choices range from bags for take-away to brownies and cakes with strange names and daring ingredients and, of course, pre-rolled joints for smoking at your table, including the infamously strong Ice-o-lator hash.

The coffee shops are smoky. Even if you just sat down for a cup of tea, you’d probably get a little second-hand high. Most shops are brightly, psychedelically colored, if you will, with eclectic art and other features which seem to exist solely for the purpose of starting conversations, trains of thought, and for something to stare at for like half an hour without realizing it. At Bushdocter, there was also a vending machine with chips and candy bars for your munching pleasure.

One thing that’s rare to see is someone sitting alone — the coffee shop is definitely a social place in Amsterdam. If one were going to smoke on his or her own, they’d buy a joint or bag and return home. This is not for tourists, though; most hotels have a strict policy about smoking in the rooms. Be sure and ask before smoking (anything) in your hotel or you could be saddled with a hefty fine.

If you’re heading to Amsterdam and would like to visit a coffee shop, check out this interactive map and reviews and more information here.

This trip was paid for by the Netherlands Board of Tourism, but the ideas and opinions expressed in the article above are 100% my own. Also, at no point did the NTB escort me into a coffee shop.

Drink coffee the way George Washington used to

Remember the coffee revolution of the Nineties, when what used to cost 25 cents at some crappy diner suddenly cost $3 at a snooty cafe? Well, at least instead of drinking what looked and tasted like dishwater you now got something that tasted like actual coffee. Ah yes, I was in graduate school then and the coffee revolution came along just at the right time! But coffee has been around a lot longer than that, as a new/old coffeehouse at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia shows.

Americans have been drinking coffee since before they’ve been called Americans. A local wigmaker and caffeine junkie named Richard Charlton opened a coffeehouse at Williamsburg more than 240 years ago, when Virginia was still a colony. Today Colonial Williamsburg, an interesting and authentic recreation of a Colonial town, has reopened this coffeeshop on the same site. You can sit in 18th century style while sipping a coffee, chocolate, or tea. You’re not allowed to dump the tea into the sea, that was in Boston, but Charlton’s coffeeshop was the scene of angry colonists confronting the British-appointed governor of Virginia colony to protest the Stamp Act in 1765.

This wasn’t surprising. Coffeeshops were places to meet and discuss politics. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson drank coffee at Charlton’s shop. There’s no record of what they talked about over a good cup of Joe, but we can imagine. Did hepped-up caffeine addicts create the superpower we know today? Stranger things have happened. . .

Unaccompanied minor told to drink coffee by Northwest Airlines employee – gets sick

We’ll file this one under “lawsuit in the making”. When Payton Parkerson was on her way to see her mother, she was flying as an unaccompanied minor – something she’d done several times before. This trip would turn out to be quite different.

During a layover in Detroit, she mentioned to the Northwest Airlines employee accompanying her that she was tired. Instead of providing a listening ear or a friendly smile, the employee told her to go and get herself a cup of coffee.

Now, millions of people grab a cup of joe at the Airport Starbucks every day, but Payton is 8. That’s right – this 8 year old who was being assisted by Northwest Airlines (their service costs $100) was told to go get some coffee, and pay for it herself.

Of course, with that much caffeine in her system, Payton got sick, and threw up twice on her flight. Thankfully a pediatrician was on board, and was able to take care of the poor kid.

Northwest Airlines issued the following statement: “We are continuing our investigation as the story you have provided us doesn’t match our records”.

No idea what that means, but as with all stories, there may be a different side to this one.


Amsterdam To Go Smoke-Free?

Quick: When you read the word “Amsterdam,” what springs to mind?

Right! All those funny little glasses from which the Dutch drink beer. Those crazy Hollanders.

Those crazy Hollanders will soon be drinking their beer in smoke-free bars, after a smoking ban comes into effect in July 2008. The ban covers all restaurants and cafes — including the city’s 300+ coffee shops, those gezellig little haunts where people go specifically TO smoke.

So how does a business founded on providing an environment in which to smoke survive if said business must be smoke-free? Fortunately, the proprietors of pot will be allowed to set up a separate room or glass partition behind which people can smoke. Customers will not be served behind the partition. The government says this will protect staff from the effects of second-hand pot smoke.

Protect staff from the effects of second-hand pot smoke? Um, isn’t that why staff applied to work there in the first place?