The Next Amsterdam
With the Dutch coffeeshop gone south, what city will give us new hope?
By David Jenison
Amsterdam’s far-right politicians finally got their wish. No, they’re not selling the poor into slavery, but they did pass legislation last May to ban tourists and limit locals from the city’s famed coffeeshops. As the Dutch capital reverts back to tulips, clogs and windmill tours, which city will take the lead in cannabis tourism and become the New Amsterdam? Cape Town, Bogotá and Auckland are on the rise and Phnom Penh bakes a mean herb pizza, but these are CULTURE’s picks for the Top 5 heirs apparent.
Negril: What better place to sample Bob Marley’s inspiration than Jamaica, and seven miles of white sand and high cliffs make Negril the chill place to do it. Less touristy than nearby Montego Bay, Negril claims cred as a ’60s hippie enclave and keeps the party tradition alive with Appleton rum, ubiquitous smoke and ’shroom daiquiris at Tedd’s. The police widely tolerate cannabis use, but like green-friendly Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica, Jamaica loses points for excessive crime.
New Delhi: The ancient Hindu text Atharvaveda called cannabis one of the “five sacred plants,” and the cannabis-infused bhang is considered a sin-scrubbing holy drink. Even the Hindu deity Shiva enjoyed a good smoke. India, originators of the term ganja (from the Ganges River), made the plant illegal to relieve U.S.-led United Nations pressure, but stopping personal use is a low priority. As the name might imply, Paharganj is a popular neighborhood for acquiring smoke, though India is far more famous for its charas (hashish). If it’s good enough for Shiva . . .
Vancouver: Canadian hockey fans clearly need to smoke more, and Vancouver is the place to do it. Not only does it boast some of North America’s best bud, Canada’s cannabis capital has a long activist history that includes the political BC Marijuana Party and the Woodstock-era Vancouver Yippies whose legal fund fought for hippie rights. U.S. political pressure (broken record alert) keeps cannabis illegal yet enforcement is lax. Good information on local smoke can be found at the appropriately named New Amsterdam Café.
Vang Vieng: Laotian green may not be Barney’s quality, but this riverside party town has something that Amsterdam soon won’t, namely places where tourists can openly smoke. By paying off the police, certain bars can sell marijuana, magic mushrooms and opium joints that you can freely consume on the premises. Outdoor bars on the famed tubing route have even been known to throw in a free spliff with drink purchases, though smoke ’em on the river and not on the streets. For a socialist republic, Laos sure has some great capitalist ideas.
Prague: The Velvet Revolution appears to have turned green. The so-called “Amsterdam of the East” has an estimated 400,000 cannabis users, which means it’s not just the Czech ladies who are smokin‘. Prague has one of the highest usage rates in the European Union, and the government recently knocked possession (up to five plants, five grams of hash and 15 grams of smoke) down to a misdemeanor. Taxi drivers and street sellers are a great source of oregano joints, but if you want the real thing, ask your friendly neighborhood bartender. Recommended spots include Chapeau Rogue and the Drunken Monkey.
HOLD ON, NOW!
At press time, we got word that the Dutch government’s plan to stop tourists from purchasing cannabis from its famed coffeeshops had run into a hurdle, the Associated Press reports. The country’s top legal advisory body, the Council of State, said that since the federal government technically bans cannabis sales, cities (like Amsterdam or the city the case sprung from, Maastricht) cannot regulate them. This might be just a technicality—the country’s prime minister said the ban will proceed—so we’ll keep you posted.