All right! Let’s roll up those sleeves and get our hands dirty. Time to get to business and grow some weed! Oh wait… I can’t.. I mean… I think I can’t? I’m not entirely sure. Let me get you up to speed on this.

The weird legal construction concerning our Dutch Weed (Nederwiet) deserves all the attention it can get. So it’s time for a list to end all lists and deconstruct some Dutch weed myths. If you’re a newbie to weed smoking, check out our guide to visiting a coffeeshop for the first time. If you’re in the weed game for the medicinal benefits, we also have an article on CBD oil, figuring out if it really is as life changing as people say. And, for the wild ones out there, we’ve got a guide on drugs in the Netherlands as well.

1Dutch weed is legal

Dutch weed is legal: right or wrong? WRONG!

Plenty of people, especially tourists, think weed is legal in Holland. I wish that were true, but unfortunately it is not the case. Dutch weed is only decriminalised. This means the police won’t randomly arrest unsuspecting smokers but if a group cause nuisance while smoking weed then the law is there as a fallback.

The Dutch government adopted this strategy in 1976 after researching what would be best to prevent drug addiction and realising weed could be a gateway drug to harder and more addictive substances such as ecstasy and cocaine.

Back then you could only purchase weed via a dealer as there were no coffeeshops. Dealers had a whole assortment of substances you might be interested in so it was far easier to start experimenting with other drugs. It was decided that regulating and decriminalising marijuana would help lower the number of addicts. Criminalizing and penalising marijuana use only perpetuated the drug problems.

Since decriminalisation of weed, consumers of 18 years and above could smoke their skunk on the streets and carry up to 5 grams per person. This caused small bars to jump into this newly discovered market and start selling our dear Mary.

Still a gigantic legal clutter (think entangled Christmas lighting) was created to keep weed ‘officially’ illegal to not butt heads with the UN (and EU), but at the same time not prohibit research on drug prevention and common logic.

This had some crazy consequences. Although smoking and consuming weed is okay and selling it is condoned, it is still illegal to grow and to sell to coffeeshops. To control this, the police do randomised and regular check-ups on coffeeshops. Police monitor if the coffeeshops are abiding by the maximum amount of weed allowed in stock and are also obliged to ask where the coffeeshop owner sourced their weed. Obviously the coffeeshop owner can’t share this information, because then his or her grower will be arrested, fined and jailed. So the most colourful excuses are made up:

“The magic fairies brought it in again?”
“Your friends at the vampire justice league are helping you out?”

2Everyone in the Netherlands loves weed

If you think that now there is peace in our little Dutch kingdom and it will only be a matter of time before weed will be legalised, then think again. There are still plenty of haters out there and many Dutch people want the green stuff banned completely. The Christian parties in particular hold a persistent ban-weed campaign.

Crazy antics followed since these parties have been part of a lot of Dutch coalitions for the past decades. Weed was decriminalised back in 1967 as part of a two-step program. First decriminalisation and then regulation. We actually never got to that second step. Boris, you tell ‘em!

Now Christian parties love to point out that there are still a lot of addicts and criminality attributed to weed. Which isn’t all that odd considering half of the process, namely the importation of the substance is still prohibited.

There is plenty of research to support that there are fewer addicts and lower crime statistics in Holland compared to other countries like the USA. Still, Christian parties, namely SGP, CDA and CU, would love nothing more than to close down those evil sin-machines called coffeeshops.

Ironically enough some criminal organisations are also doing the best they can to keep the growing process illegal. This way they can still make some decent taxfree money and be able to fund some of their other branches of illegal activity. I think the Christians and criminals should totally hook up, become frenemies and start a union: Christian Criminals United.

3Owning a coffeeshop is easy

You think that running a coffeeshop means easy cash? Racking in the money whilst smoking? If only… Coffeeshops fell victim to the Christian dogma because rule after rule was enforced upon them.

First off, coffeeshops weren’t allowed to advertise their shop (ok that’s not that weird considering alcohol also can’t. Oh wait…). Then they came up with the rule that coffeeshops had to be at least 150 meters from any schools in the vicinity. This forced a lot of coffeeshops to close down.

What followed were laws that classified between soft drugs and hard drugs. This actually made some varieties of weed hard drugs (when levels of THC are higher than 15%) and some soft drugs. Mind you, these categories were created in the first place in 1967 to make a distinction between weed and other drugs in order to condone it. According to this new rule the police have to officially check THC levels (with their great expertise in this area and plenty of time on their hands) and coffeeshop owners now have to pass up on some great product.

Then they extended the school rule to 200 meters. Sadly enough It wasn’t stated clearly enough if this was supposed to be 200 meters walking distance or as the eagle flies. So before long police officers were on their knees with measuring sticks trying to see which coffeeshops were obliged to close down and which weren’t. In fact, I applaud this. It puts a big smile on my face when I see taxpayers money being spent wisely (over 160 million is spent on preventing softdrugs related criminal activity)! And some more coffeeshops closed down.

Then came the weedpass: the icing on this really over-baked cake called Dutch weed policy. This new measure was adopted to try and rid the streets of those pesky tourists that are drawn to our weed and spend millions of dollars to help our tourist industry and economy. Maastricht (the southern most point of Holland) and Roosendaal were having an especially hard time with all the drug tourism.

So now the government thought up the wonderful “weed pass” system whereby Dutch citizens were required to get weed pass if they wanted to buy marijuana. But the pass could only be used to purchase weed from one coffeeshop. Yes dear reader, only one. I love to compare this to beer and alcohol. How would you like it if the government demanded you register for a pass so you could drink alcohol in only one bar?

Obviously this information would be put on your medical record (insurance companies began soiling their panties all over the place). This was the perfect solution. Trials were run in Maastricht. They wanted to ban drug tourism and street trade. What actually happened was that all casual smokers started buying illegally and street trade went through the roof. A small sample:

4Dutch weed is of consistently great quality

What’s even more ridonculous (the superlative for ridiculous from here on out) is that the government thought the weed pass would imply that the government is guaranteeing the safety and quality of weed use to owners of a weed pass. If they come up with the brilliant plan of demanding people use a government issued pass, then it would make total sense to actually check if the shit is legit.

But no such luck.

No promise suggesting this has been made. They expect people to start registering as true blue citizens, but didn’t want the hassle of actually having to ensure that the weed wasn’t grown in toilet bowls and dumpsters.

We just can’t guarantee the quality will be consistently good or bad. One week a particular grower might be arrested and very the next week another grower might start back up. We do however have our yearly weed competition and festival: The Cannabis Cup. So even though there can’t always be a guarantee, they sure as hell will try to have a little awards ceremony! Cast your vote now!

When it became clear the weed pass was starting to backfire the Dutch house of representatives wanted to get rid of the issue ASAP. They went back to their perpetual plan B which was delegating this hot topic to regional ruling. I have to give mad props to our Amsterdam mayor who then immediately took a stand!

Some chose to do the opposite: like mayor of Maastricht Onno Hoes, who got his panties in a twist and is on a personal vendetta.  That man has some serious issues and ridding his town of weed ain’t one of them. He is now trying to move coffeeshops to the outskirts of town. He is also entangled in several lawsuits with local coffeeshops. He probably still wants to rid the world of the awful evil of Rastafari criminal addicts, coffeeshops, hazed drug tourists and junkie scum that visit. At the very least Onno is trying his very hardest to keep them as far away as possible from the rural township that is Maastricht. Of course he is absolutely right because…

5The stereotypes about smokers are true

This leads us to the final myth. ‘A shot before open goal’ as we phrase it so aptly in Dutch. It doesn’t actually translate, but who the f*** cares?

Obviously people think in stereotypes and obviously there is always some truth to it. Let’s be honest: generalisation is just another word for stupidity. Not all gays have a leather fetish, not all girls love to comb their hair while talking about ponies, not all executives are stealing and conniving sociopaths. This also applies to smokers. Not all smokers are flushed-through-the-toilet low life addicts trembling before taking their next bong hit whilst interacting with you with the response time of a defective Commodore 64.

Of course they are out there. I’ve worked in a coffeeshop. I know they are out there! But there is a much wider variety of species. It’s fascinating to see who drops by. If it isn’t rich tourists coming for a smoke, it’s a fitness instructor. If it isn’t a model, it’s an accounting manager. If it’s not a war photographer , it’s an academic scholar. If it isn’t a programmer, it’s a school teacher. I. Kid. You. Not.

In a world where Rihanna, Michael Phelps, Natalie Portman and Morgan Freeman also smoke once in a while I can’t see how those archaic notions of smokers are still so widely entertained and believed.

Let’s start thinking and talking about weed less in the sense of OD-ing on our latest batch of overcooked Crystal Meth and more in the sense of enjoying a fine glass of ripe red wine after a good meal! If you are looking for a quality experience, then a coffeeshop is the place to go: and if you’re feeling more adventurous, there are also other drugs, of course. Or CBD oil, for the grannies among us.

Did you know these things weren’t true about weed in the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments below. 

Editor’s Note: This article was first published on 1 September 2015, but was updated for your reading pleasure on 27 November 2019. 

Feature image: TechPhotoGal/Pixabay. 


  1. […] Unlike what people think: weed is not legal in the Netherlands, but it is tolerated. The Dutch government just chose to turn a blind eye of what is happening. They call this “a crime without a victim”, so there is nothing to prosecute. It is only in small quantities though: a person can only have 5 grams of cannabis or 5 cannabis plants (at home that is, no walking around all day long with 5 plants you stoners). […]


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