Dutch Smoking Ban May Apply to Tobacco But Not Marijuana

Amsterdam without marijuana coffee shops? Is nothing sacred?

On July 1, the Netherlands becomes one of the last European countries to ban smoking in restaurants and bars.

The Health Ministry says the ban will apply to cafes that sell marijuana, known as coffee shops. But this being Holland, which for centuries has experimented with social liberalism, there's a loophole: The ban covers tobacco but not marijuana, which is technically illegal anyway.

It gets more complicated. [More...]

Dutch and other European marijuana users traditionally smoke pot in fat, cone-shaped joints mixed with tobacco.

So they won't be able to add tobacco to their joints any more.

"It's the world upside down: In other countries they look for the marijuana in the cigarette. Here they look for the cigarette in the marijuana," said Jason den Enting, manager of coffee shop Dampkring.

Possible solutions: Using vaporizers which eliminate smoke; using an herb called coltsfoot, which tastes like oregano, instead of tobacco; or turning to hash brownies and pure pot.

If you've never seen the inside of a marijuana coffee shop, here's a photo I took on our blogger trip to Amsterdam.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Two words: tourist Euros. (none / 0) (#1)
    by oculus on Sun Jun 29, 2008 at 11:54:32 PM EST

    I give up (none / 0) (#2)
    by Alec82 on Sun Jun 29, 2008 at 11:55:15 PM EST
    Trying to understand the Dutch is like trying to understand SF residents.  I lost my ability to objectively evaluate them through comparison to their Western cousins after the Fortuyn incident.

    What's so hard to understand? (4.00 / 1) (#12)
    by cymro on Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 03:03:32 AM EST
    I guess I will have to admit to not understanding people who say they don't understand the Dutch or SF residents, who seem so much in touch with reality than so many Americans.

    Yeah (none / 0) (#13)
    by Alec82 on Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 03:20:36 AM EST
    Not buying the idea that SF residents living in a city that, while celebrating gay marriage, has nothing but disdain for the homeless and a questionable "ew" double standard for smokers, are particularly enlightened.  The "city" is a remarkable place to encounter liberal truisms, certainly.  But there are a multitude of reasons that SF is hardly the beacon of liberal enlightenment it pretends to be.

     I love visiting SF, but their absurdity is hard to swallow.  

     Let me put it this way:

    You can probably guess the rest of this story. Bathhouse owners and activists balked at the guidelines. The bathhouses closed one by one either because they refused to adopt the guidelines or due to diminishing patronage. Today, however, some Bay gays are revisiting the issue and even trying to launch a ballot initiative to reopen the bathhouses. Oh yes, I can just imagine San Franciscans heading to the polls to vote on whether or not to reopen gay bathhouses. In fact, these are the only people I can imagine doing something like this.

     That's, I guess, my problem with SF.  Radicalism goes both ways.  As does political posturing.  The city by the sea seems to be as disconnected from reality as any Bush ideologue.    


    I love Europe (none / 0) (#24)
    by fkperiera on Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 12:12:28 PM EST
    Reading stories like this one makes me realise that I can't wait to move back to Europe next year.  Americans are so uptight, especially about 1) drug use 2) sex and 3) gay sex.  Live and let live; as long as you keep it in private (or specially designated public areas) who cares?

    I never will forget watching tv (none / 0) (#5)
    by Cream City on Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 12:30:57 AM EST
    in Amsterdam of a Sunday morning, and on came a church service.  Protestant, of course, so the choir got a lot of screen time.  A fine group of zaftig middle-aged women, at home in any gut German Evangelical Lutheran Church back here.

    But then the choir attempted a good ol' American gospel hymn, and never have I seen anything so awkward as those women trying to rock out and sway to the tune.  It was one of the most unintentionally humorous bits I ever have witnessed.

    So it was with great relief that they -- and their viewers -- returned to a tune more, well, traditionally Teutonic.  The choir could resume its customary, stolid delivery, and all was well again in that wonderful corner of the world.


    sf? (none / 0) (#9)
    by boredmpa on Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 01:58:02 AM EST
    is that south france? straight female? snarky feline? scrumptious fruitcake?

    San Francisco (none / 0) (#11)
    by Alec82 on Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 02:09:25 AM EST
    And nothing more. And yeah, I stand by that comment.

     The "residents" qualifier should have been sufficient to lead to San Fran...but whatever.


    What with the black flight (none / 0) (#15)
    by Wile ECoyote on Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 05:25:41 AM EST
    from San Francisco, San Fran is becoming a big, pale, latte drinking area.  Where eventually all middle class will only just be able to visit.

    Ah, Amsterdam! I heard about this (none / 0) (#3)
    by Cream City on Sun Jun 29, 2008 at 11:55:17 PM EST
    from a friend today, and it brought back to mind one of my many fond memories and fave photos from  Amsterdam: A row of marijuana plants growing in the window of the (ugh) McDonald's.

    Most Dutch Do Not Imbibe (none / 0) (#4)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 12:06:21 AM EST
    From what I have noticed. It is for the tourists.

    perhaps. (none / 0) (#6)
    by cpinva on Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 12:54:01 AM EST
    Most Dutch Do Not Imbibe

    From what I have noticed. It is for the tourists.

    however, i'm hard pressed to believe that all those shops sprang up, out of nowhere, like toadstools after a hard night's rain, because crowds of tourists just got it in their heads to come in and start asking where the best place to smoke pot was.

    no, i suspect the locals were doing a little toking of their own, and the word then filtered out to the tourists. kind of the whole "chicken/egg" issue.

    of course, the same could be said of americans, germans, brits, french, chinese, etc, etc, etc: most don't imbibe. which all leads to the very obvious question: if such a small % of the total population actually uses/abuses drugs, why do we spend a gazillion dollars a year on law enforcement, for laws that make little in the way of economic sense?

    oh, sorry, i was thinking logically there for a moment.

    Really No (none / 0) (#7)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 01:18:03 AM EST
    I have not done any kind of study but I have spent a fair amount of time in Holland with friends who were locals. Out of all the Dutch people I have met maybe one smoked weed and that was after he was really drunk. It is just not part of the Calvinist mentality. Tolerance is a big part of the culture as long as it is discrete.

    Generally they look down on it and see it as lucrative commerce that gets taxed.


    Heh... (none / 0) (#8)
    by Alec82 on Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 01:33:10 AM EST
    Most Dutch people I met while interning at the UN in Thailand were very defensive about their culture and policies.  

     Not a very strong sample, mind you.  I endured a lot of slams on the US while I was working there (in early 2005 the rest of the world was not interested in celebrating GW's second term).  The young woman in the cubicle next to me (who invited me to gmail) was Dutch.  She was an expat but she clearly planned on returning home.  

     The impression I got from her was that the Dutch were, overall, similar to Americans in their use.  

     Actually, it reminds me of complaints about prostitution in Southeast Asia.  Locals love to b1tch about the tourists causing the problems, but the demand is as homegrown as it is foreign.

     And, of course, the Dutch don't do much to discourage use among tourists.  


    To be fair (none / 0) (#10)
    by BostonJ3K on Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 02:01:49 AM EST
    Spliffs are just plain overrated anyway!

    The issue of weed and tobacco (none / 0) (#14)
    by weltec2 on Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 03:48:44 AM EST
    has always seemed backwards to me. Weed is a pleasant relaxant; tobacco is deadly.

    With regard to the Netherlands... the issue of female sexual slavery... the Netherlands as warehouse of female PARTS... Check out Human Rights Watch on this issue... and an international location to put them until they can be safely and conveniently -- for the pimps -- shipped elsewhere has always seemed to me a far more important issue.

    And that hemp (none / 0) (#16)
    by magisterludi on Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 06:04:18 AM EST
    cannot even be grown for textile is so pathetic.

    O/T- Everyone should see King Corn. It's even worse than one could imagine. I mean the ag industry, not the doc (which is painful  but tempered with quiet humor). They should show it in every school in America.


    Little will change (none / 0) (#17)
    by SeeEmDee on Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 06:40:22 AM EST
    The last time I was there (1996), a plain cannabis cigarette was called an 'American', because it contained no tobacco.

    All this crap is taking place because of the Balkenende government's culture war priorities. As soon as that far-right coalition is voted out over there, things will return to normalcy.

    no doubt they do, (none / 0) (#18)
    by cpinva on Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 08:41:53 AM EST
    Generally they look down on it and see it as lucrative commerce that gets taxed.

    all the way to the bank. which is decidedly a most calvinist approach: the more successful you are, the more likely you are to be among the already chosen. an outward manifestation of that whole "pre-destination" thing.

    don't be fooled into thinking that smoking pot is somehow either better than smoking tobacco or, at minimum, benign in its physical effects, it's not. smoking anything isn't good for your lungs. perhaps pot smoke is less carcinogenic, but it's by no means good for you.

    the problem the dutch have is one of their own making: to have explicity included pot smoking in the law would have been, at least, a tacit admission of its legality, which they didn't want to do, even though they aren't enforcing the law. by leaving it out, they can still arrest people for smoking that, period, inside or outside.

    No change? (none / 0) (#19)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 08:59:30 AM EST

    The ban covers tobacco but not marijuana, which is technically illegal anyway.

    So now that smoking both are illegal, nothing may change at all.

    How will they enforce this...... (none / 0) (#20)
    by kdog on Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 11:02:55 AM EST
    considering most Dutch and Europeans mix tobacco with hasish or marijuana.

    Will the nanny-state police be ripping open spliffs to determine the marijuana/tobacco ratio?

    What a tangled web a nanny state weaves....I guess it's too complicated to ban tobacco smoking in restaraunts and allowing it in coffee-shops and bars.  I'm a big fan of a "den of sin" exemption to smoking bans....bars, casinos, and in the case of the Netherlands coffee-shops, should all be exempt as dens of sin.

    Health Issues (none / 0) (#21)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 11:11:37 AM EST
    The Dutch are very practical. Tobacco costs them too much $$ in health care bills, while MJ is benign. All it takes is an average nose to smell tobacco, so I am sure that they will not have trouble enforcing the ban. One thing about the Dutch is that they are very tolerant but step over the line and they are as tough as any authoritarian state ever was.

    That's why I'm not so sure.... (none / 0) (#22)
    by kdog on Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 11:40:39 AM EST
    I want a national healthcare system anymore....it will inevitably to nanny-state anti-freedom nonsense such as this.

    "We're paying for your healthcare so ya can't do x,y,z"....if that's the deal you can keep your healthcare....I'd rather be free.


    Well I Think That The Dutch (none / 0) (#23)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 11:44:48 AM EST
    Have a point here. Those who work in bars, and do not smoke should not have to be breathing it all day and night. Those are the ones that the state is looking after. The other Dutch citizens will be as free to smoke themselves to death on the streets or in the privacy of their own home.

    Occupational hazard..... (none / 0) (#25)
    by kdog on Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 12:25:07 PM EST
    I'd call second-hand smoke an occupational hazard of working in a bar...just as breathing in harmful air is an occupational hazard of construction work, or toll-booth work.

    The bar workers who don't like smoke can wear a mask, or find work in a restaurant.  

    Besides...my friends in the pub industry curse the smoking ban in NY to this day...bad for business.  I know I don't go to bars half as much as I used to.  Granted, my friends in the pub business happen to smoke.

    The ninnies who piss and moan about smoke tend not to "close the bar" like smokers do:)


    Different Experience (none / 0) (#26)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 12:40:19 PM EST
    Besides...my friends in the pub industry curse the smoking ban in NY to this day...bad for business.

    As a nonsmoker I disliked bars particularly because of the smoke. My local pub where I have been having dinner, at least once a week for the last 16 years, has not suffered one iota because of the ban. I wish it did cut into their business, because it is often way too crowed for my taste.

    The bartenders and wait staff there prefer the ban because they are smoking less and getting to go outside for breaks. At first they complained but now are all for it.


    The solution.... (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by kdog on Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 02:02:28 PM EST
    to make everyone happy is to let each bar owner decide for themselves whether he/she wants to run a smoking or non-smoking establishment.  And let each bar worker decide whether they want to apply for employment.  And let each pub patron decide where they want to get their drink on.

    Everybody wins...especially freedom.


    I Would Agree (none / 0) (#28)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 03:16:29 PM EST
    If smoking was what was being served, but it is not. It is very easy to compromise and have smokers take it outside. Best of both worlds, imo. I would rarely see some of my smoker friends, were your plan enacted. Yes, smoking is addictive enough that some would pass up my lovely company to be able to sit all night while smoking and drinking, as hard as that is to believe.

    What you are propose seem more like private clubs. My guess is that smoking clubs will be allowed, just as they are allowed in NYC. It is just public places that anyone can walk into and expect to have a meal or beer without also smoking someone else's cancer sticks, albeit passively.

    But I know we will never agree on this one. My guess is that you would draw the line with someone's smoke stack dumping noxious fumes into your apt, but hey you may be fine with just nailing your window shut for the sake of principal.


    That's what makes me laugh.... (none / 0) (#29)
    by kdog on Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 03:37:47 PM EST
    There are already millions of little smokestacks pumping carcinogens into our apartments, homes, and streets...they're called car tailpipes, and every automobile has 'em.  But demon cigarettes are the problem...gimme a break ya know?

    It ain't easy to "take it outside" in the winter...And ya can't even bring your drink outside with ya to keep warm!

    Again I'm fine with a ban in restaraunts...kids are present and people don't wanna eat in a cloud of smoke, fair enough.  But bars?  "Excuse me, can you put out that smoke, I don't want to be poisoned while drinking my poison, and with any luck potentially being exposed to an std later on."  It makes no sense to me...it's laughable.

    I'm firm in my belief that "dens of sin" should be exempt. The whole purpose of going is to put yourself at risk for something!


    OK (none / 0) (#30)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 30, 2008 at 03:57:23 PM EST
    I prefer to be able to separate my poisons while I am in a public setting. As far as imposing my pleasures on someone who is bothered by it, I take it outside. I would not treat a dog that way, so why a person.

    I'm not an arsehole.... (none / 0) (#31)
    by kdog on Tue Jul 01, 2008 at 09:41:51 AM EST
    if somebody is bothered by it, and they treat me with respect, I will accomodate them and take it outside.

    But when the bar owner isn't bothered, and the fellow patrons aren't bothered, who the f*ck is the state to stick their snout into it?


    Honestly, kdog, imo (none / 0) (#33)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Jul 01, 2008 at 06:29:29 PM EST
    this is one of those things where you should as a matter of habit just always assume the smoke is going to bother somebody and whether or not they feel comfortable enough to say something to you about it, out of respect, you should always take it outside - every single time - as common courtesy.

    I'm not sure that I can impress upon you the complete and utter revulsion even the slightest whiff of cig smoke causes many, many, people.


    I get it.... (none / 0) (#34)
    by kdog on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 10:41:18 AM EST
    I get the same revulsion from most perfumes and colognes....ever walk past the perfume counter at Macys?  My lord....talk about toxic!

    But I understand it's a free country, and that means putting up with smokes and smells.  I can deal....a free society is worth it.

    Believe it or not, my non-smoking friends sincerely don't mind when I smoke in their cars and houses.  Not everyone is a rabid anti-smoking zealot.


    You choose your friends well! (none / 0) (#35)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 12:06:55 PM EST
    The other side of the free country coin is that it being a free country you can put up with understanding that when you're not hanging out with your friends you could/should of your own free will choose to go outside for your smoke.

    I couldn't agree more about the perfume counter at Macys.


    Dutch pov (none / 0) (#32)
    by dutchmarbel on Tue Jul 01, 2008 at 06:13:27 PM EST
    I am quite happy with the ban in public places though it might be bad for the environment if coming winter all pubs have heated terrasses.

    I do think that places where selling products to smoke is the core business should be excempt. There are actually 13 coffeeshops in Tilburg (town in the South of the Netherlands) who refuse to obey, so we will probabely have some more public/governmental discussions about it.

    Dutch consumption of hash/MJ is more or less average in Europe according to the stats.