When young people first discuss touring Europe there is inevitably a point when the conversation stops to get a clarification. “Wait a minute, do you mean to tell me that in Amsterdam you can just walk into a coffee shop, order some weed, and sit down and smoke it right there?” Yes, that’s right. You can also walk into a modern looking shop and literally buy “magic mushrooms” aka psilocybin, alongside various “herbal ecstasies” and other compounds that don’t live up to the promise on the packaging. But for all intents and purposes, that’s it.
So yes, cannabis is widely available in “coffeeshops” in both weed and hashish forms. You can also buy “space cakes” or “space cookies” in some places. The quality is excellent and prices are very reasonable so this is a big draw among the stoner set. Some people literally come to Amsterdam once or twice a year and do little more than hang out smoking weed and wandering around for their whole stay. There are some things to be a bit cautious about, but this is not an underground scene, it’s right out in the open.
And even though there is a doubt as to how long this situation will last, the “magic mushrooms” are available in various “smart shops” around the city. The quality is high and prices again, are reasonable, but extreme caution should be taken before diving into this pool. The people working at the shops know what their products do very well so take all their advice and warnings very seriously. Their most potent mushrooms might be many times more powerful than anything you’ve ever had before, so take it easy. People who smoke too much weed often faint briefly and then feel fine after 30 minutes sitting on a bench, but people who overdo the mushrooms can get into a nightmarish panic for several hours.
UPDATE: As of October 2007, the Netherlands has decided to ban magic mushrooms throughout the country. It’s unclear when the ban will take affect, but early in 2008 seems likely.
Amsterdam is a major capital of ecstasy pills for export, but it’s far from legal here and not available on the street at all. If you go to a dance club and ask around you might find a source, but you never know what you’ll be getting so this is a risk that really isn’t worth taking.
Amsterdam does have more than its fair share of junkies, unfortunately, so hard drugs are around, but as a visitor you are just looking for trouble and/or disappointment if you delve into this ugly scene. Particularly in the center of the Red Light District, it’s common for strung-out salesmen to whisper that they are selling coke or heroin to passersby, but they never deliver the real thing so your chances of being ripped off are near 100%.