Thursday, 19 May 2011

More markets, and drugs in Amsterdam

Whether it's "coffeeshops" selling marijuana and hash that feature smoking areas, seed shops, head shops, liquor stores selling absinthe or smart shops that sell magic mushrooms, there are businesses here that just wouldn't fly where I live. They're everywhere, and to get a better understanding of things, we went on a fascinating new walking tour available in town called DrugsFAQ.

Ernersto, the tour guide, a multi-lingual Uruguayan, spent time volunteering in a using house, and on a wander primarily in the Red Light district, told us everything there was to know about drug policy and policing in the Netherlands. I will not pre-empt the information offered on the 90 min free tour, but suffice to say I learned a lot. Highlights:

  • There are no legal drugs in the Netherlands, but drug crimes are not criminal offenses;
  • Even coffeeshops, where you can buy up to 5g per person per day, must get their supply on the black market;
  • Everything, including prostitution, is taxed to the hilt, and there's a special coffeeshop tax;
  • A lower percentage of the population of the Netherlands than the US use marijuana;
  • There's only one smart shop where you can use what you buy in the store.
It was a fascinating look into the differences in cultural philosophy that views drugs as a health problem versus ours that view drugs as a crime problem.

One interesting observation from my perspective is that as a tourist, I have yet to see a homeless person, and aside from the other day after Amsterdam's soccer team won a match, haven't seen a drunk/intoxicated person on the street. The Red Light District has surveillance video cameras on pretty much every corner. I have yet to be approached on the street by someone offering to sell me illegal substances. None of the above would be true if I had spent 10 days wandering the streets of downtown Calgary, and I consider Calgary to be pretty clean and safe.

Nor do we have flea markets that sell pretty much anything made of brass...
Technically, no photos without purchase, so I had to sneak this shot
...any men's shoe known to mankind...
I like the blue velvet ones
...or have portals built in the 1500's that list.
Nothing is straight in this city
The sun finally broke through today. First time we have seen it since last Saturday in Leiden, and the first time the temperature has broken 17°, too.


Edwin said...

We'll have a very snug 24 on saturday.... But brace yourself sunday we'll be pretty rainy.

BTW Leiden have gone 2-1 up in the series. Game 4 comming up tomorrow in Groningen (well worth the trip), lovely city with one of the best contemporary arts museums of Europe.

When in need of Tix to the game, let me know (by replying to the comment)

RyderDA said...

I'd love to get to a game in Groningen, and thanks for the offer of help getting tickets. Looking at the train schedules and the other stuff we want to do in the Groningen area, we couldn't do the area justice coming in just for a day trip for the game, and we have to be in Amsterdam on Sunday. If they are still playing on the 28th, we may get up there for 2 days, and may take you up on you offer.

By the way, is there any site that posts the box scores of the games? I'm a stats guy from way back, and am interested in shooting percentages and other performance info.