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Dutch Celebrate 30 Years of Legal Pot

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Source: Globe and Mail


Haarlem, Netherlands — The water pipe stood two metres tall, encircled by people puffing on its 64 mouthpieces. Elsewhere in the room, a new machine rolled out 300 marijuana joints in minutes. Free hash was passed around.


It was the start of a three-day Hash and Weed Festival on Friday evening. The aging pioneers of the Dutch marijuana culture, watched by hundreds of young aficionados, gathered in a sports gymnasium to mark the 30th anniversary of the first "coffee shop" that openly sold reefers like cups of coffee.


"This celebration honours the world's most successful marijuana experiment: the Dutch coffee shop system," said Pete Brady, an organizer and writer for Cannabis Culture Magazine.


The seeds of Dutch drug tolerance were planted in 1969 when two entrepreneurs with a taste for marijuana started selling cannabis plants from a houseboat, calling themselves the Lowlands Weed company.


In 1972, Wernard Bruining opened Mellow Yellow — then called a "tea house" — on the Amstel River in Amsterdam, the Dutch capital that is now a Mecca for marijuana smokers.


The weekend festival was a tribute to three decades of progressive drug policies in the Netherlands and to the men, like Bruining, who founded a culture.


Another of the pioneers at Friday's celebration was Old Ed Holloway, now 86, a cannabis cultivator who moved to the Netherlands in the 1970s from California. Mr. Holloway taught Dutch marijuana growers how to use genetic plant breeding techniques that increased the potency and yield of their crops.


Representing marijuana's big-business establishment was Henk de Vries, who in 1975 opened the first smoke parlour called a "coffee shop" in a former brothel in Amsterdam's notorious Red Light district. Mr. de Vries owns the Bulldog chain of coffee shops, now a multinational business of cafes with its own clothing line. Last year, he said, he had about seven million customers.


While Old Ed and Mr. de Vries were being honoured, an aging henna-haired Dutchman known as Armand strummed a guitar and sang his songs that had been the background themes in the coffee houses of the '70s.


Along the sides of the sports hall, stands displayed the latest in smoking paraphernalia and the high-technology vapourizers that are replacing hash pipes with the younger crowd. Joints were free for the tasting.


Nol van Schaik, founder of the Global Hemp Museum and owner of the Willie Wortel coffee shop chain, said the marijuana industry has grown so large, "we have become a full-fledged branch of Dutch business."


Holland now has more than 800 coffee shops, found in 105 of the country's 500 cities and towns.


"We have lasted 30 years, despite criticism from around the world, particularly the United States, Sweden and France," said Mr. van Schaik, author of The Dutch Experience, a book on the marijuana movement that was released in conjunction with the 30th anniversary.


The Dutch government passed groundbreaking legislation in 1976 that distinguished cannabis-based soft drugs from "hard drugs" such as heroin or cocaine. Cannabis was still officially illegal but the possession of up to 30 grams was no longer to be prosecuted as a criminal offence.


Today, coffee shops sell marijuana and hash in five-gram bags without fear of penalty. Menus offer a vast selection, ranging from potent high-grade White Widow or Skunk varieties, grown in greenhouses, to milder outdoor strains such as Orange Bud.


The liberal Dutch approach laid the foundation for a multibillion-dollar economy, attracting millions of visitors each year and generating substantial tax income for the Dutch government.


Contrary to claims soft drugs open the way toward hard-drug addiction, Dutch advocates said coffee shops are a safe place for experimentation that keep potential users away from criminal pushers. The government insists while it tolerates soft drugs, it is tough on hard-drug dealers.


A 2002 report from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, said so-called "problem drug use" in the Netherlands is the lowest among countries in the European Union and candidate states.


Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)

Published: Saturday, November 30, 2002

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:rolleyes: http://www.t-boat.com/images/gallery03.gifI was there, hihi, not in Haarlem, but as one of the first coffeeshops.

here's a pic taken from the T-boat in '71,...YES, before this official date of the first coffeeshop! and if ya have a close look at it you can see the coffeeshop sign was there allready some time.

the thing is,...we even where not the first coffeeshop!

The fact is, the one that claimed to be is the first, as not many ppl from the "scene" want all that publicity.

so the one who likes publicity the most is registerd as the first one.

Ask the Owner of "the Bulldog", and he will tell ya 'the bulldog' was the first...lekker belangrijk **Dutch for "who cares!".......just some foreign tourists, with all respect,..just want you to know how we, in general, deal with "cannabis culture", we just smoke it and let others make a big deal out of it.

.......................................as we say : lekker belangrijk. :blink:


ps. we where NOT the first coffeeshop, who is the first coffeeshop is impossible to track down as we(all the first shops) didn't register in the early days and where totally illegal. the local Amsterdam authorities started to register coffeeshops only in the early '90's ('94) and before that anyone can say what they want about it.I have been digging all files known for years now becouse of some prob. we have with the local waterdepartement,..so I did my homework on this.

pps. on our party's the press is not invited, for our guests privacy.

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