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Since, it's a neat article, I though I'd post it for those without nifty
netnews access.  I hope it's not too illegal.

-Erik

In  americast-post@AmeriCast.Com writes:

> HEADLINE: The Corner Hashish Joint Amsterdam's 'Cannabis Cafe' Habitues Sip Espresso, Nibble Pastries
> Publication Date: Thursday December 10, 1992
> BYLINE: JEFF KAYE
> 
> One of the great pastimes for many of the people who inhabit or
> visit this picturesque city of tranquil canals and 17th-Century
> architecture is to linger in a coffeehouse with a  cappuccino , a
> pastry and a big, fat joint stuffed with supercharged dope.
> 
>    In hundreds of establishments, patrons can casually order up an
> espresso, a chunk of Nepalese hashish and a side order of rolling papers.
> Just say "Sensimilla," and you get a little packet of marijuana that the
> purveyor promises will enliven the conversation at your table.
> 
>    Marijuana and hashish are generally sold right next to the drinks and
> snacks in the city's extensive network of "coffeeshops" or "cannabis
> cafes," as they're also known. Sometimes the drugs are available at the
> counter; sometimes they're sold by a guy sitting over in the corner.
> There's always a menu specifying type, quantity and price, making
> comparison shopping easy.
> 
>    "It's just like going to a bar to have a drink," says Sue Medeiros, an
> American belly dancer who has lived in Amsterdam for 17 years. "You go
> into a coffeeshop to have a smoke. I don't do it myself, but I'm not
> opposed to it. I think it's much better that it's all aboveboard."
> 
>    Indeed, coffeehouses offering "soft" drugs have become so pervasive
> and popular in Amsterdam that they've even splintered into sub-categories
> that cater to different sorts of customers, like American bars.
> 
>    At a dimly lit place called De Tweede Kamer (The Second Room), for
> example, the atmosphere is reminiscent of a sports bar, with a noisy
> all-male crowd sitting around smoking dope while watching Dutch baseball
> on a TV affixed to the ceiling.
> 
>    Chocolade has built its reputation around desserts such as homemade
> cakes, fudge, chocolates and, for true snack connoisseurs, Rice Krispies.
> The Otherside, decorated in high-tech modern, is considered the best gay
> coffeehouse in Amsterdam and features 20 kinds of milk and yogurt shakes,
> along with the full array of coffees. The extensive drug menu is
> handwritten on a chalkboard at the front counter.
> 
>    In many respects, Amsterdam's circuit of coffeeshops is similar to the
> burgeoning coffeehouse scene in Los Angeles, offering a place for
> people--mostly youngish--to relax, hang out with friends, listen to music
> and consume something other than alcohol.
> 
>    But where denizens of L.A.'s pik-me-up or Bourgeois Pig might
> contemplate whether to get decadent and drop a couple of cubes of sugar
> into their double-decaf capps, Amsterdam's coffeehouse habitues consider
> whether they're in the mood for blond hash (a giddy high) or dark hash (a
> serious zonking).
> 
>    Although it's only 5 feet, 9 inches from floor to ceiling in this
> stark basement room, the sign reading "Mind Your Head" is not necessarily
> about avoiding a bump on the noggin.
> 
>    This is the cellar of the Grasshopper coffeeshop, but not the part
> where you buy coffee. This is where you buy the stuff to smoke upstairs
> with your  caffe latte  and Earl Grey tea. Unlike most of its
> counterparts, the Grasshopper has created a separate space for drug
> sales.
> 
>    The menu is distinctive: Push a button, and a wall-mounted display
> case lights up, showing neatly organized little packets of cannabis, each
> accompanied by the standard consumer information blurb.
> 
>    There are 14 types of hashish, including "Kashmir," "Lebanon" and
> "Zero-Zero," and a similar number of marijuana packets with names such as
> "Grasshopper Special," "Skunk," "Purple Sensi" and "Thai." (Most of the
> goods cost less than $10 a gram. As one police officer notes, "It's
> cheap.")
> 
>    An inflatable globe inside the Grasshopper's display case emphasizes
> the international dimensions of the trade.
> 
>    Over in the corner, behind a glass window like a bank teller, is the
> friendly house drug dealer, Sander.
> 
>    "I've got a secret for you," he says, smiling. He pulls out a
> rectangular Tupperware container, which surely would have stored
> yesterday's tuna casserole under different ownership, and opens the lid
> to expose moist clumps of marijuana.
> 
>    "You want a blast in your head?" he asks. "Just take a couple hits,
> and in 10 minutes you won't know what you're doing."
> 
>    The name of this off-the-menu special?
> 
>    "Holland's Hope," Sander says.
> 
>    Clearly, not everyone is enamored by this flagrant consumption of
> cannabis, and many consider Amsterdam a sister city of Sodom and
> Gomorrah. But finding critics within Amsterdam itself isn't easy.
> 
>    "It's rather accepted in our culture," says Kurt Van Es, who reports
> on the drug trade for the Dutch newspaper Het Parool. "When there is
> opposition, it's aimed at hard drugs, or too much noise, or other
> criminal activity."
> 
>    Both the Dutch Ministry of Justice and the Amsterdam Police Department
> proudly point to the coffeehouse scene as a social system that has
> reduced drug-related crime and limited the number of people who abuse
> hard drugs, such as cocaine and heroin.
> 
>    "We see no harm in possessing or using soft drugs," says Ministry of
> Justice spokeswoman Jannie Pols. Government research has shown that "most
> of the people who use soft drugs don't use hard drugs," she adds. "And
> they stop (smoking marijuana and hashish) after a certain age. We know
> that."
> 
>    With those conclusions and stats in mind, the government set out to
> discourage cannabis users from getting entangled in the world of hard
> drugs.
> 
>    "We want to separate the market," says Pols. "That's why the
> coffeeshops are tolerated. We hope people who want to try soft drugs
> don't go to people selling hard drugs."
> 
>     Toleration  is an important word here, because none of this is
> legal. Under the current drug law, the 1976 Opium Act, the importing,
> trafficking and possession of cannabis are illegal. But possession and
> selling of amounts less than 30 grams are classified as misdemeanors and
> given minimal--read:  zilch --policing priority.
> 
>    That's not to say that anarchy prevails. The police strictly enforce
> rules against selling hard drugs, selling cannabis to minors and
> advertising. And complaints from neighbors can shut down a coffeeshop.
> 
>    Police also have struck back at attempts to exceed the boundaries of
> their tolerance. A factory producing something called "Space Cakes" was
> raided and closed, as was an enterprising dope-to-your-door delivery
> outfit called Blow Home Courier Service.
> 
>    Between 20 and 30 coffeeshops are shuttered by police each year for
> one reason or another, says Klaas Wilting, spokesman for the Amsterdam
> police.
> 
>    Ironically, the illegality of the drug business means that cannabis
> cafes cannot be licensed, so anyone can open one and little is known
> about how many there are and how much they earn.
> 
>    Wilting guesses there are 200 coffeehouses in Amsterdam, "maybe more."
> Journalist Van Es believes there may be as many as 400 and cites Dutch
> government figures estimating the nationwide value of the soft-drug trade
> at 650 million guilders a year, or about $400 million.
> 
>    How does all that dope get to all those coffeehouses?
> 
>    Don't everybody raise your hand at once.
> 
>    "I don't know," says police spokesman Wilting.
> 
>    "I can't tell you that," giggles Sander, the dealer at the
> Grasshopper.
> 
>    The Bulldog is credited as the oldest cannabis cafe in Amsterdam,
> starting up in 1975, a year before the current drug laws were enacted. It
> also appears to be the big success story of the coffeehouse scene, with
> three outlets around Amsterdam, including one in the main entertainment
> plaza, the Leidseplein. There's also a Bulldog cocktail bar, a Bulldog
> bicycle rental service and a Bulldog souvenir shop that sells T-shirts,
> denim jackets, caps, ashtrays, lighters, rolling papers and shelves of
> other items, all emblazoned with the company logo of a cartoon bulldog
> with a studded collar.
> 
>    At the main Bulldog on the Leidseplein, right next to a giant Burger
> King, the "house rules" are spelled out over the entrance in Dutch,
> French, German and English. "No alcohol--No hard drugs--No aggression. By
> not following the rules, you will be thrown out."
> 
>    Inside, it is dark, crowded and vibrant, with rock videos blasting out
> of the TV and customers chatting and passing joints. There doesn't appear
> to be a nonsmoking section.
> 
>    At the front counter are two young guys from Zurich. One sips his
> coffee while the other rolls a joint in a fairly complicated manner that
> involves twisting the cigarette paper into a cone and clipping off a
> protruding edge.
> 
>    "They are tolerant of drugs in Zurich," says one of the guys. "But not
> like this."
> 
>    It is not immediately clear where the drug sales take place in here.
> But closer scrutiny reveals a man with a long black ponytail sitting
> discreetly in the corner alongside a counter with three drawers. A
> printed drug menu is on the wall above him.
> 
>    The dealer, who says his name is Rowdy, doesn't want to talk much
> about himself or his livelihood but is willing to give a few insights
> during a lull in sales. He is 34, he's been dealing drugs for 15 years,
> and he's part of a dealers' cooperative that rents the counter space from
> the Bulldog. Sensimilla, a particularly potent strain of marijuana, is
> the most popular item on the menu.
> 
>    Rowdy doesn't want to discuss much else. But he would like to get in a
> plug for the Bulldog.
> 
>    "High quality and atmosphere," he says, sounding like a TV commercial.
> "In Amsterdam, we're still the first and best."
> 
> 
> This article is copyright 1992 The Los Angeles Times Home Edition.
> Redistribution to other sites is not permitted except by arrangement 
> with American Cybercasting Corporation.  For more information, send-email to 
> usa@AmeriCast.COM