Weed in Amsterdam: What’s Unity cup and how do coffee shops operate
Amsterdam Other worlds

Weed in Amsterdam: What’s Unity cup and how do coffee shops operate

It’s all Johnny Petram’s fault! Had he not found a loophole in the Dutch law and opened the first coffee shop in the sixties, people would not be having a hard time facing up to the fact that his legendary shop, Mellow Yellow, is now closed. They got the better of him. After fifty years of running the business, they totally screwed the guy and closed him down, along with another 43 stores located at this hapless address. It wasn’t all that complicated. They simply passed a law saying that no coffee shop is to be located at a distance of less than 250m from schools. And Mellow Yellow was one of them.

weed unity cup amsterdam

For decades, this legendary place had been known for its mellow music (slow, tranquil, zen music) and yellow exterior. It was also not quite dirty, but a rather unsightly shop. Johnny Petram likes to say that this was probably the only place in the world where Palestinians and Israelis could spend time together without conflict. 

No problem! We will open a new one at a different address! But hey, the coffees hop story is no picnic nowadays. Opening new ones is prohibited. There are petitions to exclude Mellow Yellow from this regulation and to grant it its relocation so that it could continue its story somewhere else. Nevertheless, Johnny Petram is the pioneer… We’re still waiting for the epilogue.


5 grams of legality

To begin with, drugs were NEVER legalized in the Netherlands. In this country, the toleration policy regarding the possession and consumption of soft drugs (cannabis products – primarily marijuana and hashish) is in force. This bizarre policy, developed as a compromise between warring parties, states that the sale of cannabis in any form is a criminal offense, but the Public Prosecution Service will not prosecute these notorious “criminals” for this offence. Try to guess whose side the church supported, and whose side the hookers were on!

Toleration doesn’t only refer to coffee shops. The consumption and possession of cannabis is also legal in a public place provided you have less than 5 grams. So don’t even think of going out with more than 10 reefers! This is not the end of the story. Growing a maximum of 5 pot plants in the living space is tolerated as well. Five nice bulky bushes … just like that, instead of a rubber plant. This policy, however, does not apply to those under 18, nor to special zones in the vicinity of kindergartens, schools, playgrounds, etc. The penalty can go up to 12 years in prison. Sounds complicated?

Rules that apply to coffee shops are supposedly strict, but the tricks that the owners use to dodge these rules are even more serious. The coffee shops are not to serve those under 18, alcohol is prohibited, as well as the sale of heavy drugs.  Advertising of any kind is strictly forbidden, and all purchases must be below 5 grams. The infamous 5 grams.

weed unity cup amsterdam

After spending just 15 minutes in one such place, we noticed that almost none of this is being put into practice. A certain American, we’ll call him John Doe, left the shop with 25 grams … and 5 receipts for 5 grams, of course. Everything is clean and according to procedures. Nobody will even ask you to produce a valid identity document, although they ought to. Some cities, like Maastricht, have Weed Pass. You have to register first in order to be allowed to enter a coffees hop at all. Maastricht resorted to these measures because it is very close to Germany, Belgium and France. The idea was to root out cannabis tourism. There are no such ideas in Amsterdam for now and there will hardly ever be.

The daily amount of cannabis the coffees hop is entitled to hold is half a kilo. It is also absolutely incredible that coffee shops are allowed to sell, but cannot purchase cannabis. Drug trafficking is forbidden in the Netherlands. Dodging these rules is called back-door policy. It is therefore illegal to supply the store with cannabis, but it is legal to sell it. Merely by crossing the threshold of the coffees hop, those 500 grams of cannabis enter the “legal” flows, under the auspices of the Toleration policy. In all honesty, the amounts are not complied with as well. Bulldog allegedly rolls between 10 and 12 kilograms a day. 

If you think this is weird take a look at: Prostitutes of De Wallen: Amsterdam Red light district revealed  

Now, you are probably wondering why don’t the police wait for an illegal delivery. Well, it’s simple. These are all open secrets that everyone turns a blind eye to. The law of the street.


All that THC

THC is an abbreviation for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, a psychoactive component of cannabis. According to some people, it’s an abbreviation for happiness. The products of coffee shops usually have an increased dose of  THC (Nederweed). In Amsterdam, you can expect to find marijuana with about 7% THC. In the case of hashish (popularly called hash in slang), which is obtained by processing the resin of female cannabis plants, the concentration is much higher and goes over 12%. Cannabis oil has the highest level of THC – more than 20%.

weed unity cup amsterdam

Each coffees hop has its own menu and the staff are ready to explain everything in detail: the smell, the taste, the size, the effect, when it buds, when it is picked, how it is processed etc. The price of the so-called pure joints, which contain only marijuana and no tobacco, starts at 7 euros. The so-called regular spliffs, made from a mixture of tobacco and marijuana, are cheaper, with the price ranging from 4-5 euros. If you feel like trying out these “delicacies”, start with the mild varieties, like the Indy Bomb and similar mixtures. They contain tobacco and marijuana, but no hashish. The drugs will start to kick in about 15-20 minutes after taking the first drag, and the effect can last for 3-4 hours.

weed unity cup amsterdam

Do you perhaps feel like having a cookie? Cookies may sound naive, but are in fact much more serious compared to the rolling. The effect is delayed and occurs after an hour or two, but it keeps you high for quite a long time, sometimes for more than 7 hours. If you are taking it for the first time and you do not know if it will agree with you, DO NOT eat the whole cookie at once! Our crazy cab driver Adil is very proud of the cookies. While he was driving, he spoke with such enthusiasm that hashish is actually the main ingredient of the cookie and none other than his home-grown, Moroccan. He said: “Aaaah, we are quite proud of that pure Moroccan product.” He does not consume them, since they tend to make him sick and their consumption is definitely not recommended while driving.

If none of this seems clear to you, drop by to the school. Cannabis College will be happy to explain everything in detail. Lectures are regular. They are dedicated to legalizing cannabis and product testing. They are also one of the centers which organize UnityCup, an annual cannabis product competition, featuring most of Amsterdam’s coffee shops. The 2017 winners are (product name is in brackets):

Flower: Original Dampkring (Blackberry Bliss), Grey Area (White Fire #6), Voyagers (Sunset Sherbet)

Nederhash: Grey Area (SB Ice), Original Dampkring (Red Ice), Green Place (Cookies and Cream Iceolator)

Import Hash: Bagheera (Mango Haze), Original Dampkring (Asli), Green Place (Don Perignon)

The 2018 winners will be announced on November, after a three-day festival usually held at Melkweg Hall. You should bear in mind that the superstar among the coffee shops, Green House, does not take part in the UnityCup. Their boycott continues and you can see the ranking of their products at the World High Cannabis Cup. Green House has become known worldwide for its Super Lemon Haze Sativa.


Coffee shops and their stories

To begin with, there’s Bowie, a cat that simply won’t leave the Dampkring coffee shop. He entered the place for the first time 7 years ago. He is not overly friendly, though that doesn’t really matter, because he spends most of the time sleeping on the tables. This store is also known for its role in the movie Ocean’s 12. George Clooney and the rest of the team planned their scams all over Europe at this very place.

weed unity cup amsterdam

Dampkring is located on the tourist cannabis tour. This is why you should always keep in mind that you can end up on many social networks if you decide to sit in the window.

Green House is a place with special tradition. Have you ever heard an American rock star answering the question “Are you on the wall of shame in Amsterdam?” Well, this is the wall in question! No celebrity missed out on the opportunity to drop by. Rihanna, Snoop, Peppers, Wesley Snipes, Will Ferrell, Bill Maher, Borat, Pink, Cypress Hills, Redman, Method Man, Eminem, Kelis, Simply Red, Tyson, Busta Rhymes…

weed unity cup amsterdam

Everything here is on a highly professional level. Microscopes are everywhere and everything can be tested, just like the Cannabis College does. The founder is Arjan, who also has a documentary called Strain Hunters which is broadcast on NatGeo and Vice.

Gray Area coffee shop is fairly concealed. Its working hours are also a bit out of the ordinary – from 12 to 8 p.m. If you are looking for a homely atmosphere then this is the place for you. The shop is covered with stickers, and the staff is very helpful and friendly.

These guys have been rewarded 25 times so far, and they smashed the last UnityCup by winning the first place in 4 out of 5 categories. Is it the best one? It’s hard to say, but Snoop made a statement in one of the Dutch magazines, saying that Bulldog is a coffee shop to which he gladly returns. This chain of stores occupies the best locations, just like the Red-light district.

weed unity cup amsterdam

Other coffee shops worthy of your attention: KadinskyBagheera1eHulpBarniey’sBoerejongens (that resembles something in-between a pharmacy and a fast food restaurant).


Amsterdam’s best coffee shop by far

This is how the locals generally do it. You buy it at a black market. Then you pick up a cone of cheese chips at the corner (Chipsy King, at the intersection of Damstraat and  Nes streets). Since the consumption of soft drugs on the streets of Amsterdam is permitted, it is easy to come to the conclusion that the best place for getting high is the very staircase of the National Monument. A view of Dam Square. During the day, street artists, jongleurs, loonies and pro gymnasts entertain the drivers held up at the traffic lights for a couple of euros. Free show for everyone. This is something you shouldn’t miss!

Now, let’s see if you’ve mastered the Toleration policy.

If you light up a reefer at this place, you are breaking the law and the police can take it from you, but you cannot be prosecuted for this offence. Okay? Truth be told, only a complete asshole would circle the monuments and take the pleasure away from dozens of people. The chances that something like this will happen are fairly small and even if it does happen, don’t panic, just light another one.


DISCLAIMER: This text is not intended to promote the use of drugs! Do sports and other healthy stuff.