Cannabis and Coffeeshops in The Netherlands: 5 myths

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Categories : Cannabis news

Cannabis and Coffeeshops in The Netherlands: 5 myths

We go through the 5 most common misconceptions about cannabis culture in the Netherlands and debunk them one by one leaving only hard facts.

There is no country in the world that is better known for cannabis than the Netherlands. And rightfully so. Cannabis means big business in the Netherlands, especially in the tourism sector. For example, 5 million tourists visit Amsterdam annually, a third of them spends some time in a coffeeshop. With these numbers, it's hard to evade a certain reputation and the creating of a few myths. But worry not, because we spent some time researching Dutch legislation concerning cannabis to deconstruct the most common myths.


The most common misconception about cannabis in the Netherlands. So, to clear this issue once and for all, cannabis is NOT legal in the Netherlands, it is only decriminalized, meaning the police won't go out handcuffing unsuspecting stoners. It is legal to use cannabis if you are over 18 years old and have up to 5 grams on your person, everything else is illegal. The cause of this situation is EU legislation, the Netherlands can't legalize cannabis without breaking EU laws.

This legal clutter leads to some funny consequences. Selling cannabis is only allowed in licensed coffeeshops for which the licenses were handed out in the 90's and aren't available anymore. Licensed coffeshops can carry only 500g of cannabis at any given time and there's the catch. Growing and selling weed to coffeshops is illegal, but with a large number of customers there is a non-stop need for restocking. It basically means that there are people constantly supplying coffeshops with cannabis, which is illegal in its own right. Just goes to show what a charade Dutch cannabis legislation is.


This myth was probably true a couple of decades ago. Today, if you smoke a joint on the terrace of a restaurant or similar, there is a great chance that the staff will ask you to put it out. The security at most Dutch music festivals will pat down visitors at the entrance and if they find cannabis they will refuse to let you in unless you get rid of it. There are people in the Netherlands that aren't very fond of cannabis, such as Christian parties, which actively try to ban cannabis use in Dutch cities. For instance, many cities, including Amsterdam, have „no-cannabis“ zones where it is prohibited to use cannabis and you will be fined if that is the case. There were even talks about making entire cities „cannabis-free“ zones but that turned out to be impossible because the consuming of cannabis is legal.



The number of cities and municipalities in the Netherlands is 403. The most recent number of coffeshops in the country is 582, with 187 of them being located in Amsterdam. These statistics show us that while visiting Amsterdam it may seem that the whole country is packed full of coffeshops, but that's not the case. Owning a coffeeshop ain't easy due to the ton of ridiculous laws concerning cannabis. The coffeshops can't advertise and have to be 200m from school property just to name a few. There is also the concern of neighbor countries such as Germany and Belgium, which do not approve the selling of cannabis close to their borders. In conclusion, if you find yourself in the Netherlands with a need to buy cannabis, stick to the bigger cities.


You live in a country where it is legal to use cannabis and you can buy it in specialized shops that have an amazing variety of strains, so it must be that 80% of the population is consuming cannabis, right? Wrong. Research conducted by the EMCDDA has shown that the Dutch use of cannabis is below the European average. If you are looking at people from ages 15 to 64 that have consumed cannabis at least once in their life, the European average is 24.8 percent, while the Dutch average is 24.1. To show you that the Dutch are a sober nation, let's just say that the French average is 40.9 percent and France is a country with very repressive cannabis policy. Statistics like these need to be taken with a grain of salt because they never describe the whole truth, but it goes to show that the majority of Dutch people don't use cannabis. Nonetheless, the minority isn't oppressed and cannabis use is, after all, legal and tolerated.


Around 1982 in the US, during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, a large-scale DEA raid was started on outdoor growers. Due to these raids and the growing war on drugs, a group of growers fled the United States and went to the Netherlands. There they started some indoor growing operations, introducing indoor growing to the cannabis scene in the Netherlands. This concept revolutionized the cultivation of cannabis and changed the whole scene. So, we can thank a bunch of American growers, mostly from California, for the trend of indoor cannabis cultivation. But, needless to say, some Dutch pioneers were of the utmost importance in the development of indoor growing.