Dutch Marijuana Legislation Facts
Amsterdam is known to be a liberal city. Although many people exaggerate the freedom here, the Amsterdammers and Dutch in general do have a few liberties that are unique in the world. Still, whenever you visit a city in a foreign country it is always a good idea to keep yourself posted about law enforcement issues. In Amsterdam's case this can prove a difficult task; our article fills in the gap by outlining the current drug policy, and introducing you to Amsterdam's Coffeeshop culture.
In the Netherlands the distinction is made between two kinds of drugs: soft and hard drugs. Both are illegal, but the possession and use of small quantities of soft drugs is regulated so that it does not amount to a public offense. The Dutch drug policy is unique worldwide. Of course, the use of addictive substances is discouraged, if not prohibited. Along these lines, since cannabis is free from physically addictive qualities, it is not considered as more harmful than alcohol, for instance. In short, the official national policy allows for certain forms of trade in soft drugs.
• You are allowed to purchase and possess up to five grams of cannabis. Exceeding the 5g threshold is interpreted as unlawful trade practice for both retailers and customers. Simply put, you risk a fine and/or accusations of illegal cannabis trade.
• Only licenced “Coffeeshops” are allowed to sell cannabis products, and never more than five grams per person per day. You have to be 18 or over to access a Coffeeshop.
The paradox in the Dutch drugs policy is that the growing and trading of large amounts of soft drugs is illegal and not allowed, yet Coffeeshops still need to buy their stock. This phenomenon is referred to as the “back door/ front door” paradox: Coffeeshops are allowed to sell (and pay taxes for it), but can not legally buy stock.
It is not illegal to smoke outside the Coffeeshop, but things have changed over the past few years, and it is no longer acceptable to smoke cannabis just everywhere.
Restricted areas around Central Station and the Red Light District have a “zero tolerance” policy. In other areas in Amsterdam where it is forbidden to smoke Marijuana, official “no-pot-smoking” street signs will indicate this clearly.
Although you are not expected to know local regulations, you might very well risk a fine when smoking in these areas.