Amsterdam: A Trip to the Past Sheds Light on the Future

An Amsterdam Visit…

I recently had the opportunity to visit Amsterdam, and in between the trips to museums, sightseeing, and eating far too much Dutch chocolate, I made sure to carve out some time to explore the storied Amsterdam cannabis scene. I was really curious to see how Washington’s recreational industry, still in its infancy, stacked up against the original recreational weed market. I must say that I was left feeling that Amsterdam has nothing on Washington – in fact we are crushing it by comparison.

Amsterdam canal with bikes
The classic view of parked bikes along an Amsterdam canal.

Let me start by saying, it is still super cool to hang out in a city that is many times older than our entire country, and absorb that history while being able to enjoy some weed. Amsterdam is a wonderfully easy city to walk, with lots of canals, interesting alleyways, and killer architecture.

But don’t go there expecting the cannabis scene to be anything more than a bunch of young tourists pushing up to a counter to buy a bag of sad looking buds from an unengaged cashier who is less interested in talking about weed than in taking your money. If you are looking to talk cannabis, a seed shop (such as Sensi Seeds, or Paradise Seeds) is a much better option – but they don’t have any weed for purchase.

Sensi Seeds Amsterdam store
Sensi Seeds is the oldest and largest hemp seed bank.

The other bummer is that because it is illegal to grow, the shops are supplied with whatever happens to be available. It is difficult to set up a permanent grow, at a large scale, that won’t be discovered and then busted. Moreover, according to a manager at one of the seed stores I visited, there are mainly 4 strains that are grown (and then called something else on the menu). He said there is basically, haze, skunk, kush, and chemdawg and that he wouldn’t even smoke what they have in the shops because you never know what it really is (or how it was grown, flushed or cured).

The Bush Doctor Seeds store in Amsterdam
The Bush Doctor Seeds store manager said he does not buy cannabis in Amsterdam shops.

Additionally, you can forget about any kind of a dab scene, as it is illegal to sell any cannabis product that does not contain at least 40% plant matter. The only concentrate available is hash, which is a staple in Europe. The choice in edibles is pretty limited, with brownies, cookies, and space cake being the primary option. Plus, none of the edibles appeared to be tested or labeled for THC content – resulting in a consume and hope for the best scenario.

The cafes themselves were all over the place in the city center, with the aroma of weed periodically wafting past as you meander through alleyways. For the most part all of these cafes were quite small, and poorly lit, similar to a dive bar – which can be cool, but not if that is all there is. Because it is technically illegal to smoke cannabis on the streets you are limited to these cafes if you want to indulge, although you still see people walking around with joints or spliffs.

Red Light District and Canals of Amsterdam
The beautiful scenery of Amsterdam, intermixed with wafts of cannabis smoke on the streets.

It seems like the culture in Amsterdam is still catering to the lowest common denominator – tourists who are just in town long enough to plow through a few bowls and then move on. There is no need for shops to provide much in the way of customer service, because they have a captive audience. That, coupled with the lack of variety in products, will leave somebody in search of an immersive shopping experience, sorely disappointed. But in all fairness, I’m sure that shop owners get tired of the endless stream of tourists who appear less interested in the product, than in partying.

On the whole, it is apparent to me that Washington state, and to a lesser degree Colorado, are blazing the trail for a cannabis market that embraces variety, quality, and above all else, a customer service experience that allows customers to deep dive into all that cannabis has to offer. Providing customers with access to high quality products, and to the producers that grow them, is at its core what the Evergreen Market is all about, and likewise what our industry is doing to distinguish itself from the rest of the world. After visiting Amsterdam, I truly believe that Washington can become a worldwide destination for weed enthusiasts and newbies alike.

Amsterdam canal legal cannabis
Washington may not have canals, but we do have amazing cannabis & excellent customer service.

My experience left me with a renewed sense of purpose, and I am more convinced than ever that we are on the right track, creating an industry that we have every right to be very proud of. While it was eye-opening and nostalgic to explore the Amsterdam weed scene, it was very apparent that the future of recreational cannabis lies not in the past, but in the future we are creating in Washington. They still have better chocolate though.


Written By: Eric Gaston, Founder

Did you see our previous blog on Amsterdam? 

Read it HERE!

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