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First off, pot is NOT legal in Amsterdam. That's right... it's NOT legal. You see the Dutch have the ability to look beyond the American concept of criminalizing things... and in this case they take the approach that if you're only using it for yourself and not purchasing or transporting huge quanities... then they'll tolerate the use of small amounts of pot, hash, and other psychedelic stuff like mushrooms. (FYI: yes, it's real hash. Not tar.) What's this mean in real terms? It means vacation just got a lot more relaxed!
WARNING: READ THIS BEFORE YOU CONTINUE: The stuff you'll get in Amsterdam is really, really high quality. You think you get good stuff? You ain't seen nothin' yet. Take this piece of advice to heart: GO SLOW! If you overdo it on the first day, you will regret it. I've seen it too many times. People in my party will go out on the first day and smoke everything in sight, only to find that they can't handle it... and spend about 3 days coming back down in their hotel room. Remember this little tid bit: Life is too short to pass out before you're due. Take it slow. Enjoy the fact that you can acutally purchase the stuff in a controlled, acceptable social situation.
Ok, here's the basics: Marijuana products are sold in places called "Coffeeshops". Don't ask me why they're called that... they just are. I'll tell you some of my favorite coffeshops in Amsterdam in a second. Psychedelic products like mushrooms are sold in stores called "Smartshops". Again, don't ask me why. There are so many Coffeeshops in Amsterdam that there's no way you can ever get to all of them on one trip... no, most of the fun is finding the one that suits your taste the most... and then finding another.
Most Coffeeshops will also serve food items (hmmm, got the munchies?) and light beverages. Some used to serve beer, but the Dutch government has restricted beer sales away from places that also sell pot and hash. It's a really good idea to get a beverage wilst enjoying a smoke... you never know when you'll need a bit of warm coffee or fresh squeezed juice to revitalize your senses.
All Coffeeshops will have a counter area where the dealer will be. Usually it's set off from any bar or beverage area. Consider the dealer the equivalent of a wine sommelier... in other words ask him or her what's freshest.. or tell him or her what your plans are for the day and the dealer will suggest something appropriate. There are two basic strains of pot: sativa and indica... both are clearly marked on the Coffeeshop menus. In general, sativa strains will be more of a "up" high and indica strains will be a "heavier" high.
What about hash? Well, technically hash is the rolled or condensed pollen that gets collected during the growing process. Keep in mind that eating hash is a great way to consume without smoking, it just takes a little bit longer to kick in.... and you'll want to keep your dosage small until you know what effect the stuff has on you.
One more thing about marijuana products: beware of the "Space Cake"... they can be suprisingly strong despite being small. Eat them in small bites and see what the effect will be before consuming more.
Much like the Coffeeshops, the Smartshops will have someone who can answer your questions about the psychedelia products they sell. Ask questions! That's why they're there.
I can't claim a lot of experience with the Smartshops... but some of my favorite Coffeeshops in Amsterdam are:
There's a few internet websites that provide great resource on the topic of Coffeeshops... some with maps, directions, reviews, etc.
Here's one that's pretty cool.
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