The Dutch government announced today that the Netherlands will soon ban tourists from their famed marijuana dispensing coffee shops which have long offered a haven for pot smokers from around the world. A letter from the Dutch Parliament stated, "In order to tackle the nuisance and criminality associated with coffee shops and drug trafficking, the open-door policy of coffee shops will end..."
So comes the conclusion of drug tourism in the Netherlands, or at least to the above-the-board type.
Which reminds me of a travel story from decades back, the last time I was in Amsterdam...
It was mid-winter about 24 years ago.
I was sitting in a coffee shop in the tourist district of Amsterdam with some friends, when a strung-out looking junky-type wearing a brand new, bright red, cold-weather jumpsuit stumbled through the door and planted himself at the end of the counter a few seats away. Spittle dribbling down his thick beard, he muttered loudly to himself about how America "is shit because Van Damme is soooo much better than Sylvester Stallone," all the while staring at us, or at least trying to stare at us, his head slowly bobbing and his eyes seemingly unable to focus.
Paying him little mind, we continued to sip tea and coffee and chat amongst ourselves (including speculating quietly about the possible origins of the brand new bright red jumpsuit) as some other guy sitting at the counter near me slowly cleaned some ganja to roll a joint. A few minutes later, just as he put joint to lips, the jumpsuit mumbler rose abruptly to his feet and marched unsteadily toward us with obvious purpose in his plodding step.
I was the closest. He stopped right in front of me, inches away, and looked me as square in the eyes as he could muster. I was prepared to say 'no' to pretty much anything he had to ask, but his request surprised me. Motioning to the ashtray on the counter, he implored, "Can I eat your seeds and roaches...Maaaaan?," his Germanic accent adding a very appropriate Tommy Chong drawl to his already slurred speech.
I didn't know quite what to think except, 'how can I deny him this?'
Mildly dumbstruck, I slowly nodded and leaned back so he could reach across and pick up the ashtray. Dirty treasure in hand, he squatted on the floor in front of us, blew most of the ashes out of the ashtray and then dumped the entire contents into his mouth - seeds, sticks, remaining ashes, roaches, a couple of filters and a used tea bag with the tag string still attached. He reach into his mouth and fished out the string, held on and pulled, squeezing the teabag against his tongue, sucking it with an expression of deep savor and using the remaining moister to help swallow the dry sticks and seeds. Fearing he would choke, I offered my cup of tea, but he refused.
When finished, he made a smooth exit. With taught, seemingly practiced moves, he stood straight, handed me the ashtray, put the teabag in his pocket, offered a polite "thank you," felt his way back along the counter to the door and left.
The proprietor emerged and walked over, broom in hand to clean up the ashes from the floor. He shook his head, grumbling, "fooking Danish junkie comes in here everyday."