If you ask a Dutch person where the nearest coffee shop is, you are likely to be pointed in the direction of a cafe serving hot drinks. But if you are in Amsterdam, you may well be taken to somewhere quite different – one of the city’s 160 cannabis shops.
These are not your typical coffeeshops, where the vibe is meditative and they have a few tables for customers to sit down to have a chat. These are places where a man in a bowler hat will greet you at the door and “cannabis sommeliers” in white doctor’s coats can help you choose just the right strain for your day.
In the Netherlands, it is legal to possess and consume small amounts of marijuana for personal use. However, the sale of marijuana is still illegal under national law and is prohibited by local authorities in most areas. The legal grey area in which the coffeeshops operate is controversial. Some Dutch politicians and law enforcement officials want to crack down on these places, arguing that they attract too many tourists and lead to problems with crime and nuisance. Others, however, defend the coffeeshops as an important symbol of tolerance and freedom of expression in the Netherlands.
Tourists and foreigners are welcome in most coffeeshops in the Netherlands, but there are a few districts like Maastricht or Sittard-Geleen that do not allow tourists to enter due to concerns about drug tourism. In these cases, the only way to gain entry is by being a temporary resident of the Netherlands or having a Dutch passport. Coffee shops in the Netherlands