Amsterdam is, of course, the weed capital of Europe, and it shines as a great beacon of acceptance for the consumption of soft drugs around the globe. But despite what you may have heard, things are not always what they seem when it comes to weed in Amsterdam.
For example, did you know that growing weed is actually illegal? So where does the weed in the coffee shops come from? Good question!
There are a lot of things that the typical tourist in Amsterdam doesn’t see behind the scenes in the local weed industry, and that’s probably for the better. Besides, you don’t need to understand how or why weed is sold in Amsterdam in order to enjoy it. Although my experience with marijuana comes from the medicinal side, and I only really visit coffee shops with out-of-town guests, I have decided to dive deep into the local weed culture for your benefit. You’re welcome.
If you’re just here because you wondering where to smoke weed in Amsterdam and which coffeeshops are good, then we’ll cut to the chase.
1Smoking weed in Amsterdam: the law
What is the law on cannabis?
Let’s start with what the law actually is on smoking cannabis. For one, cannabis is not actually legal in the Netherlands, something many people outside of the Netherlands do not know (and shockingly I’ve encountered a few Dutch people who didn’t know this somehow too)!? Weed in the Netherlands is actually decriminalized (‘toleration policy’). This basically means that it’s tolerated.
It’s not really allowed, but nothing will happen to you if you choose to go into a coffee shop and smoke it and/or take some home for your own personal pleasure (5g or less).
This doesn’t go for growing though. Yes, you can get away with growing a few plants for your own personal use, but growing on a mass scale, to sell or even to distribute to the coffee shops? Well, that’s a no go. This is what makes the whole thing completely confusing, as the weed in the coffee shops has to come from somewhere. It’s just a complete grey area.
As a result, a lot of coffee shop owners actually hire buyers to get the cannabis and then bring it in for them. The coffee shop can then have 500g on site and nothing more.
Can I smoke weed legally in Amsterdam?
Well, technically, no. Again, like I said before, nothing will happen to you if you’re an otherwise law-abiding citizen, you’re not causing a public disturbance, you don’t have more than 5g on your possession and you’re smoking in an Amsterdam area where weed smoking is not banned. Other than that, you’re good to go.
You might want to inform yourself at the Coffeeshop Info Centre Amsterdam
If you’ve got any specific questions about smoking weed in Amsterdam and you’re a bit hesitant to visit a grizzly dark coffee shop then you might just want to visit the Coffeeshop Info Centre Amsterdam.
As you can see in the photo it’s all nicely lit and clean there and they’ve got all the information you could ever need when it comes to smoking it up. The Coffeeshop Info Centre can point you in the direction of tons of coffeeshops (whatever kind of shop you fancy). They will answer all your questions on the regulations about soft drugs in Amsterdam. They also sell some premium seeds, CBD products and you can score some clean and stylish ganja paraphernalia there too.
It’s just a 3 minute walk from the Central Station, so we can recommend this stop if you want to get smart before you get high in Amsterdam.
Prins Hendrikkade 10
1012 TK Amsterdam
2Smoking weed in Amsterdam is mostly for tourists
Walk into any coffeeshop — no, not a café where you get good coffee and cold drinks, a coffee shop where you get stinky weed and bad coffee — and you will instantly notice something: the people behind the counter are all Dutch, and nearly every customer is a tourist. This is because locals just don’t partake in the activity. Whether it’s because these people have been around it their whole lives, or because most coffee shops are located in tourist traps where locals never go, people who live in Amsterdam just don’t do it. Come on, if you lived in Efteling, would you eat the cotton candy every day? (Don’t answer that!)
3There is no regulating body to verify strain, potency, or anything else
If you come from the US or Canada and live in a state/province that has legalized marijuana for recreational use, you may be accustomed to buying weed that has a lot of information about what it is, where it was grown, how potent it is, and how much THC it contains. This is not the case with weed in Amsterdam.
This means that if you’re a newbie, going to a disreputable coffeeshop may mean you could be getting random weed. If you’re a connoisseur and can really tell the difference between Indica, Sativa, AK-47, and Alice In Wonderland, good for you! You should call out the coffeeshop when they try to sell you something you didn’t ask for.
4Understand what you’re getting — weed, weed with tobacco, hashish
At the point of purchase, you will be confronted with several different options of what to consume and how to consume it. The main categories of weed are pure weed (just the leaves), weed mixed with tobacco (if you’re a smoker), and hashish (oil usually mixed with tobacco in a joint or used in a bong). You will also be asked to decide between Indica weed (gives more of a relaxing body high) or Sativa weed (provides an uplifting head high).
Finally, you’ll be asked to choose your delivery method: do you want to buy loose bud and roll your own joins or smoke in a pipe, would you prefer to have a pre-roll (a joint they rolled), or do you prefer to consume it as an edible?
If you are new to this, my advice is to go for a pre-roll of pure Sativa or Indica when you’re smoking weed in Amsterdam for the first time. Be aware that edibles should be consumed in small quantities (share a muffin with a couple of friends) because its effects take a while to activate and sneak up on you.
5A typical visit to a coffee shop in Amsterdam
When visiting a coffee shop in Amsterdam for the first time, it would be useful to understand the protocol. Although they sell coffee and usually sodas, their main business is weed, so be sure to visit the marijuana counter before doing anything else. Typically, these counters are at the front of the store, so it’s the first thing you do. The staff will show you a menu with the items I just mentioned above, so pick your poison!
After you buy your weed, you can either go have a seat and enjoy your weed, though I recommend you buy a coffee or other drink just as a courtesy (or more like a ruse — your parents: “what’d you do this afternoon?” you: “I had some coffee.”).
Finally, have a seat in the main area, their patio, or their private room (for those who are shy of smoking weed in Amsterdam in public) and enjoy your purchase. As a bonus, most coffee shops will have music playing and a TV tuned to something that will soon become the most fascinating thing you’ve ever seen.
Read more︱How to behave in a Dutch Coffeeshop
6Smoking weed in Amsterdam: know your limits
This is the part where I warn you that you should be careful when consuming marijuana, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. As I already mentioned, be extra careful with edibles since they can feel like duds until they kick in, then you’ll need to ride out the high.
Smoking weed allows you to control how high you get by smoking just a little or a lot. Hopefully, you’re getting high with a friend, in which case you two can share a one-gram pre-roll to start with.
Not to sound like your mom, but stay hydrated, be extra careful with bikes when roaming the city, and never buy weed from any place that isn’t a coffee shop. If you don’t know how your body (or mind) will react to marijuana, stay in a safe place until the high goes away. If you’re moving to Amsterdam to start your own personal smoke’a’thon just remember to budget your vice with your painstakingly inflated rent.
…Literally how I’ve seen some tourists smoke weed as they assume it’s the same as a cigarette. The end result is never pretty.
7Some of the best weed options in Amsterdam
For several reasons, including the fact that weed isn’t controlled like in the States, I can’t fully recommend anyone coffeeshop to try, since most coffeeshops tend to have better consistency in their coffee than in their weed. So instead of recommending coffeeshops based on weed quality, I’ll give you some suggestions based on the atmosphere, which ultimately plays an important role in the experience.
If you are here for the first time, you really can’t do any better or worse than The Bulldog. There is a big location in Leidseplein and several in the Red Light District. Selfie yourself with the sign, and enjoy the mega crowds. But really: no.
For a deeper experience, try Spirit in the Jordaan. They have pinball, which, while already super fun, is even more so when you’re high. Easy Times near the Rijks has a big private smoking room with plenty of seating and a big TV, which should provide hours of entertainment.
7 coffee shops to go for smoking weed in Amsterdam:
- Boerejongens — great for smoking, great for picking up produce, very smooth place with friendly staff at all 4 (!)locations
- CoffeeshopAmsterdam — best spot near the Central Station, clean friendly and some premium stuff
- Tweede Kamer — an institution in The Hague, an institution in Amsterdam. Been around for a long time, check it out and you’ll understand why.
- Grey Area — American’s love it and lots of celebrities have been there
- The Spirit — Pinball machines and a chilled vibe
- Easy Times — Your home from home
- The (original) Dampkring — think Ocean’s 12, sofas and a cat
Honourable mention: The Bulldog because it is an institution so you should go there at least once even though it is kind of a tourist trap in Amsterdam.
To get more info on the best places for smoking weed in Amsterdam, be sure to check out our guide to 12 best coffee shops in Amsterdam in 2019 and read up on the most friendly weed-smoking bars.
8Other trippy experiences
If you’re looking for something a bit more trippy or want to make Van Goghs starry night come to life, then perhaps consider trying truffles. They are sold in smart shops and are actually legal. Alternatively, perhaps you want to spend your whole holiday getting to know the epic club scene in the Netherlands?
If you’re interested in harder drugs, then make sure you read up on ecstasy use in the Netherlands. The pills have a higher concentration here than other countries so be wary. If you are looking for a way to recover and face your back to work blues head-on then consider CBD oil. CBD is extracted from marijuana and maintains equilibrium within the body. It does not give you a high but is hailed for its healing properties.
As you can see, there is much more to the weed scene in Amsterdam than just hopping into the nearest coffee shop near your hotel and asking for a joint. It’s important to know what you’re getting, understand your own limits, and be in a safe environment when you are trying something for the first time.
All these experiences are unique and can be a great way to spend your time in Amsterdam.
What tips do you have when it comes to smoking weed in Amsterdam? Let us know in the comments!
Feature Image: Martijn Relax/Pexels
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in January 2020, and was fully updated in January 2021 for your reading pleasure.