Here are the answers to the questions I get asked most frequently. If you have any other questions, please e-mail me.
Is cannabis legal in Holland?
Strictly speaking, no. Possession of small quantities is decriminalised, meaning it's a non-criminal offence like a parking ticket. In practice, even the law against selling cannabis is not enforced in Amsterdam.
What about this new law banning smoking in public places?
Smoking tobacco in enclosed public spaces will become illegal as of 1st July 2008. It's not yet clear how this will work. There is talk of special smoking areas being permitted. It's also thought that the ban only applies to tobacco so pure cannabis would be permitted. See the forum for discussion and up-to-date news.
...and the tourist ban?
Apparently, a right-wing Dutch minister made a speech in Berlin proposing that local authorities should change their regulations so that only Netherlands citizens could enter a coffeeshop. Fortunately, the local authorities (particularly those along the German border who the remarks were aimed at) are not enthusiastic about the idea so it's not likely to be implemented.
Can one smoke anywhere in Amsterdam?
No. It's not that you're likely to get arrested, it's simply a matter of good manners. Some bars and hotels don't mind smoking pot but others detest it. If you want to know whether it's cool to smoke in a place, just ask politely.
Are all drugs acceptable?
The Netherlands is not the Wild West. On the contrary, it's exceptionally civilised with a sensible and constructive attitude to drugs. The use of cannabis is tolerated. The likes of cocaine and heroin are not. Having said that, ecstasy and even cocaine testing kits are available in the smartshops.
Never buy any drugs on the street. You *will* get ripped off. Stick to the coffeeshops and smartshops.
Can ACD supply you with cannabis?
NO. Your author does not live in Amsterdam. I live in the UK where cannabis use is prohibited. Sadly, I can't just pop down the road to my neighbourhood coffeeshop, grab some grass and pop it into the post for you.
If you're desperate, check out the Grassy Commerce section of the ACD's links pages.
Mail-Order Cannabis Seeds
Check out the Marijuana Seeds ad on the Shop links page.
What is a 'coffeeshop'?
Coffeeshops are cafes where cannabis may be purchased and consumed. In Amsterdam, the term has become so well established that conventional coffee shops tend to call themselves 'tea-rooms'.
Coffeeshops are licensed by the city council (as indicated, in Amsterdam, by the green and white stickers in their windows).
The catering analogy is carried through in the term 'menu' for the list of available grasses and hashes. For more details click here.
There is a table of typical grass and hash prices on the Coffeeshop general info page.
Is there a coffeeshop near to the airport?
Schiphol airport (Amsterdam's airport) is to the south-west of the city in a very barren area. The trams don't go out that far from the centre. There are a few coffeeshops in the suburbs that are closer to the airport than the centre but you would need a knowledgeable taxi driver to find them.
A better bet would be to catch a train into the centre. There is a railway station inside the airport and high-speed trains run into Centraal Station about every 10 minutes. They streak into town in about 20 minutes.
What is the minimum age to enter a coffeeshop?
The age limit for smoking and drinking is 18. If you look under 18 be sure to carry some ID as checks are common.
Are there coffeeshops elsewhere in the Netherlands?
Yes, but not on the same scale. The policy in each locality is determined by its local council. Most of the big cities have a few coffeeshops but they are not always as obvious as in Amsterdam. The ACD now has a list of many coffeeshops throughout the Netherlands.
What's the correct coffeeshop etiquette?
It's not necessary to buy cannabis in every shop you visit. If you're making use of a shop's facilities, however, you should buy a drink or something.
I have heard a rumour of one shop (not in the guide section) demanding that any cannabis consumed on their premises is bought there. Should you get hassled for skinning up your own stash, after having bought a coffee, then please let me know. Any shop with this kind of attitude problem deserves to be boycotted.
In my experience, opening a conversation with coffeeshop staff in English doesn't cause offence but being ultra polite, smiling and ending every sentence with a "please" or a "thank you" does wonders.
Should I bring my own bong, skins, pipe etc?
Most coffeeshops have papers and tips* available free at the bar. Many also have pipes and bongs.
*A note for Americans: tips are strips of cardboard that we Europeans like to roll up in the ends of our joints. Ironically, in the UK we know them by the American term 'roaches'.
Can I live and work in Holland?
Citizens of the EU can, in principle, live anywhere in Europe. Americans and other nationalities can expect much more of a paper minefield. Don't be fooled by the fact that every Dutch person you meet in Amsterdam speaks perfect English, if you want to work there you're gonna have to learn the language (see also links: Amsterdam).
Can I work in a coffeeshop?
I get a lot of emails asking about this so you can be sure there is plenty of competition. I have even had coffeeshops ask me to remove their email addresses from the site because they get too many people begging for a job.
Can I buy a coffeeshop?
Since 1995, Amsterdam coffeeshops are licenced and very very few new licences have been issued or existing licences changed hands.
Are there any coffeeshops in xxx town?
For a full list of towns with some coffee, smart, grow or head shops, check out the town index.
How do I post a comment about a shop?
Full details on the Correspondent's Comments page.