What is a coffee shop?

The Netherlands is a unique country in the world when it comes to drugs. This is mainly due to the regulations, which are very flexible compared to other (neighbouring) countries. A characteristic Dutch phenomenon that owes its existence to this is the coffee shop. Here you can buy weed or hash in a 'legal' way, despite the fact that both the customer and the coffee shop have to adhere to strict rules. A coffee shop is not just a shop or catering facility, but can be seen as a category in itself.

The first coffee shops in the Netherlands

The history of coffee shops in the Netherlands goes back 50 years, with the opening of Mellow Yellow in 1972. Four years earlier, however, it was already possible to get hash from Sarasani in Utrecht, but this was not yet in the form of hashish in 1972. traditional coffee shop. The Amsterdam shop started in '72 with the sale of prepackaged pieces hasj in plastic bags, a formula that most coffee shops have adopted. This invented the classic Dutch coffee shop, where you can buy weed or hash at the counter and enjoy a nice joint with a cup of coffee or tea on the spot. Mellow Yellow was the oldest coffee shop in the Netherlands until it closed its doors in 2017. Since then, the Bulldog, which was founded in 1975 at 90 Oudezijds Voorburgwal, has been able to carry this title. Nowadays there are around 560 coffee shops throughout the Netherlands, of which Amsterdam, with more than 160 shops, houses a significant part.

Toleration policy

The Netherlands is one of the few places in the world where you can buy weed, hash and others 'legally' cannabis products can buy. The origins of this can be found in the 70s, when the so-called tolerance policy arose. This means that the sale and possession of cannabis is still illegal, but is condoned in small quantities. At the time, the authorities were already aware that these soft drugs did not cause as many problems as hard drugs such as heroin, which emerged in those years. This lenient soft drug legislation created an environment in which it became legal to sell cannabis in small quantities for recreational use. Although it is not officially legal to be in possession of cannabis, you will not be prosecuted if you have 5 grams or less in your pocket. In this way, coffee shops are given a facilitating function, by taking the wind out of street dealers' sails and creating a safe environment for users.

Coffee shops of today

Coffeeshops still only sell weed, hash and others cannabis products and no other (soft) drugs or alcohol. Coffee shops are only allowed to sell to people who are 18 years or older, and a maximum weight of 5 grams. Of course, half a century of coffee shop history also entails a lot of development. Despite the fact that most coffee shops today still have the unmistakable character of a cozy living room with tables, board games and ashtrays, there are also simple takeaway shops, shops with exclusively medicinal CBD products and real coffee shop hotels. Thanks to the rich cannabis history in the Netherlands, and Amsterdam in particular, there is a lot of related tourism that cannabis brands are capitalizing on. For the most comprehensive look at a coffee shop in all its manifestations, a visit to Amsterdam is an absolute must.

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