I know you have been dying for me to write about drugs and my country. Today there was a nice 3 page special in my newspaper and so I am going to start a series about pot and the Netherlands. I guess the American readers will be somewhat amazed, but not as much as they expect to be.

But let me start here with a mild warning for travelers: A coffeeshop here does not sell coffee. Go to a bar or a restaurant instead.

Today starts with facts and figures.

  • Over 2 million (out of a total of approximately 16 million) have at one time in their life tried smoking cannabis. 78.000 do on a daily basis.
  • The average age when people start blowing is 16 years. The largest age-group is 20-24 years and the majority of users quits before age 30. Almost none ever used hard drugs.
  • The Netherlands is an “average” country: 6% of it’s population used cannabis in the last year. That is below France (8%), Spain (10%), the United States (11%) or Australia (13%).
  • In 2006 there were 729 coffee-shops throughout the country. In the early 90′s that was twice as much.
  • Most coffee-shops are located in the 4 largest cities (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht) and in villages across the borders; 78% of the municipalities do not have any coffee-shops.
  • Coffee-shops have a “tolerate” license which is usually extended on a yearly basis.
  • In 1991 the basic rules to which a coffee-shops have to adhere to were layed out. These were adjusted over the years and are now known under the acronym AHOJ+G, meaning: no advertising, no hard-drugs, no nuisance, no youth below 18 and no trade (meaning: no sales above 5 grams and no stock above 500 grams). The plus-sign means: no alcohol served.

For the uninitiated: soft drugs is cannabis, hash, pot. Hard drugs is heroin, speed, cocaine, opium, etcetera. Our legal systems makes a distincion between hard and soft drugs.

Comments surely appreciated!

Disclaimer: I have never used any drugs in my life, nor have I ever seen a coffee-shop from the inside.