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Does the drug situation in Amsterdam make it less appealing for tourists?

We just spoke with baby boomers who did not enjoy Amsterdam due to the overwhelming marijuana everywhere. Is this becoming a problem for tourists?
Thank you!

Posted by
16059 posts

Well maybe its a draw. Just saying. Its been like that for as long as I can remember. Maybe now that California is about to become the new marijuana mecca, it will lose it's appeal.

Posted by
11450 posts

I think that was just your friends , I've never found it an issue , and frankly why would anyone ?

I live in a place where pot is close to legal , we can easily buy it in stores , it doesn't bother me a bit. I hated Las Vegas because I saw way too much open drinking , and drunks are more offensive than stoned people .

Posted by
2487 posts

the overwhelming marijuana everywhere
Really? I never notice it when visiting Amsterdam.

Posted by
1954 posts

I just spent 6 days in Amsterdam and was in Haarlem for the King’s birthday last week and never noticed any smell of marijuana. Lots of families enjoying the holiday. I had the 3-day transit card so I was on the train between Haarlem and Amsterdam frequently. Also used the trams in Amsterdam and never saw any evidence of stoned people.

Posted by
286 posts

I'm getting ready to go there in a few weeks and as a tourist - and baby boomer - on my first trip to Amsterdam, do not find it less appealing. I don't mind the smell of pot (brings back memories of my youth in the late 60's and early 70's) and as someone above mentioned, a stoner is a whole lot less aggravating than a drunk (and there is nothing more disgusting than the smell of a morning-after drunk).

As for myself, I'm thinking about going to a coffeeshop while I'm there and enjoying the wares. 😊

Posted by
3406 posts

I live in a state with legalized marijuana (Washington) so I really didn't notice a big difference. If you are looking for marijuana, you will find it. If you just ignore it, I doubt it will have any impact.

Posted by
3465 posts

Maybe it depends on what part of Amsterdam you hang out in, but other than in a "coffee shop" I have never smelled pot smoke. I just stay away from those places and the other smells are no worse than any other big city.

In fact, it is because of the legal pot that many people make Amsterdam a tourist destination. Probably less so now that more places in the US are allowing it. I know I have never been harassed by someone wanting to sell me any on the street in Amsterdam as I have in other cities where it is not legal.

Posted by
317 posts

Most of the "baby boomers" I know were filling arenas in the early 70's so full of pot smoke that they couldn't even see Pink Floyd, Yes or Deep Purple 50 feet away. I don't buy it. I am more offended to be living in a state that warehouses minor pot offenders in "for profit" prison schemes.

Posted by
260 posts

I suppose everyone is different. Some people seem really into marijuana (which I don't get personally), others seem vehemently opposed to its use by adults (which I also don't get). I personally just don't think it is all that interesting. There's a scent of it in the air from time to time in Amsterdam, but as others have said here I think it is easy to ignore or work around if you want. We found the charms of Amsterdam compelling (history; architecture; very friendly local people speaking English as a 2nd or 3rd language as well as I do as my native language; lovely canal scenes, etc.) and just avoided/ignored the aspects that weren't all that interesting to us.

Posted by
2727 posts

I recently returned (March) from 7 full days in Amsterdam. I didn't smell marijuana once and we were all over town. I'm not sure where your friends were hanging out. That being said, so what? It won't affect you as you go on your own way.

Posted by
4524 posts

due to the overwhelming marijuana everywhere

Blockquote

I really have to wonder about their trip report to you. I've spent time in Amsterdam, including just a couple years ago, and it isn't an issue at all. If you hang out in the Red Light District late at night it would be I suppose, but I didn't and never noticed it. Even during the day and early evening it isn't an issue for the most part. Amsterdam is a very large city - with far more to offer than vice.

Posted by
3895 posts

I'm as square as they come (don't drink, don't smoke, never touched drugs) and though I did have some issues with the smell of cannabis smoke when we were there, I did like our visit.

Some people say they don't notice the smell, but I must have an extra sensitive nose because I got a whiff of it in a lot of places - even Haarlem - no, we didn't even darken the doorstep of the Red Light area. But I find even cigarette smoke bothers me when we are on holiday, since we are outside more and around it, where I am hardly exposed to it at home.

I think it's only a problem if you let it become a problem - as others have said (and I've known a few) - many tourists partake while there. I used to think cannabis was horrible - but I've come around to seeing it as less of an issue than alcohol. Still not something I'd ever do (caveat - if I ever need chronic pain relief, I want to avoid pharmaceuticals at all costs and would def consider edibles). But I'd rather deal with tourists that are high over a group of drunk and rowdies.

Posted by
14 posts

We’ve been in Amsterdam for a week and still have three more days to spend here. Neither my husband nor I have ever partaken ourselves but we really don’t care if others do. I have to say that we have noticed the scent occasionally during our stay but it’s been infrequent and a complete non issue. I don’t know where they would’ve been to notice overwhelming marijuana!!

Posted by
2789 posts

We're conservative baby boomers and we didn't notice it when we were in Amsterdam in July 2015. Honestly, there's too much to see to focus on this.

Posted by
908 posts

I was in the Netherlands a few years ago and didn’t notice that or the prostitution. (Just walk a couple streets over and you wouldn’t know the Red Light District exists.)

Honestly, if people want to find drama in some form, they’ll find it. If they don’t seek it out or it doesn’t interest them, odds are they won’t notice.

I wouldn’t let their thoughts keep you from visiting.

Posted by
6841 posts

I am surprised they did not complain about cigarette smoke; it seems more prevalent in public places in Europe than in the United States where it has been banned everywhere; those baby boomers you spoke to sound like whiny old people but go to Amsterdam to keep with the Jones'

Posted by
378 posts

"We just spoke with baby boomers who did not enjoy Amsterdam due to the overwhelming marijuana everywhere."

Did they elaborate on that? I actually don't understand the complaint.

  1. How does marijuana overwhelm someone? It's a plant. It just kinda sits there.

  2. How would someone using marijuana curtail your enjoyment of something else? Was it the fact people were doing it at all, or were they being openly harassed by people doing it?

  3. Were these people Americans? There's a bias in certain parts of the US against marijuana in general; maybe they came from there?

Sorry, I'm not even being facetious; I don't understand.

-- Mike Beebe

Posted by
64 posts

I'm a baby boomer as well as someone who doesn't indulge. Though we had an occasional whiff, it did absolutely nothing to deter our wonderful trip in Amsterdam. To be honest, I thought the whole thing was fun and amusing.

Posted by
227 posts

My sister lives in Amsterdam and I've visited her quite a few times . Never noticed mj smell . Maybe the baby boomer found it interesting to talk about ?

Posted by
2122 posts

I was in Amsterdam last month and smelled marijuana a lot. We did not go to the RLD. I don’t particularly like the smell, but it was so brief when I did smell it, I can’t say it bothered me. I think that for some baby boomers, it may have negative associations, say with hippies or war protesters or draft dodgers, who are people they may not have agreed with back in the day. I think we should be as tolerant of them as we are of people who like to partake. If they don’t like Amsterdam and don’t want to go back, that is their right. Why do we need to accuse them of being whiny and call them names?

Posted by
4528 posts

The percentage of people in the Netherlands who use cannabis is more or less half of that who do in the USA.

Indeed there is only one country in Europe where usage is thought to be higher than the USA - Iceland.

Posted by
3173 posts

Considering we have neighbors on our floor who smoke pot almost constantly, we are certainly accustomed to the smell. Even before they moved in about a year ago, we have had no issue with Amsterdam's liberal laws regarding marijuana.

The stench of cigarettes to me is much worse and I'm glad that smoking in bars and restaurants is illegal.

Posted by
317 posts

I find it hard to believe that the "Woodstock Generation" is offended by the smell of marijuana. Our parent s were offended by it and they aren't likely healthy enough to travel to the Netherlands. I find it a stretch to associate the smell of marijuana with draft dodgers. I don't associate it with particularly with war protesters either as the majority of the population eventually opposed the war. Frankly I think that baby boomers would be the least offended of any demographic. It's my demographic and I would be hard pressed to find someone my age who would be offended.

Posted by
4 posts

The relatively relaxed approach to dope was one (of two) reasons why Amsterdam was a big destination for us when I was a teenager. But, many decades later, I've become old and curmudgeonly and going back a couple of times in the last few years I really didn't think marijuana was in any way off-putting or all-pervading. Honestly, I didn't notice it. To be more honest, I thought the open prostitution in the Red Light District was more unpleasant.

Posted by
2122 posts

Everyone in the Woodstock generation was not and is not the same. Believe it or not, there were conservative young people in the sixties. (I wasn’t one of them, but I know some who were.) Also some people get more conservative when they get older. I just think that there are some people who associate pot with the whole liberal ethos of the sixties and that might be a turnoff. I know one person like that very well; I doubt he’s the only one.

Posted by
317 posts

Nowhere in my post did I make a claim that "every member of the Woodstock Generation is the same". This thread is dealing in huge generalities. If I wanted to delve into minutiae I would mention that my baby boomer sister has always been very conservative and has no interest whatsoever in travel to Amsterdam. I can list many others as well. I suspect Amsterdam isn't very concerned with that shrinking demographic.

The conservative members of the baby boomer demographic will increasingly find their own home states and locales to be "less appealing" as attitudes and laws change. Even red state Michigan will be voting on legalizing recreational marijuana use this year and pundits are predicting a good chance it will pass. Obviously the group's number is shrinking over time as well making our influence less pervasive. Baby boomers will need to get over their unease if they wish to visit destinations with relaxed marijuana laws. I'm personally bothered more by the omnipresent cigarette smoke in outdoor cafes but I realize that I must cope with it or sit indoors. The smokers are not required nor are they likely to adjust their behavior for me.

Posted by
1290 posts

I usually don’t listen much to what my friends have to say about anything when it comes to travel destinations. Most of my friends aren’t travelers and I am. They don’t travel much because they buy into anything negative they’ve heard about places. I asked some friends to go on a RS tour of Turkey several years ago, and there response was “ why would you want to go there?” We went without them and loved the it! I research and make my own conclusion based on multiple resources.
I’ve been to Amsterdam twice and was seriously bothered by cigarette smoke. Sitting on a restaurant patio was awful. Almost everyone smoked! As far as MJ, I smelled it a few times while passing cafes. It seriously is not even a minor issue and I wouldn’t let it keep me from visiting a wonderful city.

Posted by
3 posts

We are headed to Amsterdam (and Paris) for my husband's 67th birthday. While we re not going for coffeeshops, we will visit one. He is as excited as a kid getting his first bicycle. We don't drink or go to clubs. I think it is quite cute. He only knows of the days of mj taboo. Of course that is not WHY we are going to Amsterdam. Someone mentioned nothing is worse than a drunk and I second that. Rowdy drunks are horrid and groups of rowdies are worse. Stoners are no problem at all.

Posted by
4700 posts

Pot is becoming as mainstream as alcohol. Canada just voted to legalize it nationwide. It's already legal in most of the western US. It's only a matter of time before it's legal everywhere.

Posted by
306 posts

We were in Amsterdam in April.

the marijuana was noticeable in the evenings in the red light district
on the weekends.

It was not obvious to us elsewhere.
Smoking pot is very recreational and social; I would not worry about it.

Posted by
8293 posts

According to the OP, there are baby boomers who find the smell of pot offensive! There can't be more than a handful of such boomers and you have to wonder how they found themselves in Amsterdam to begin with. Apparently they not only avoid pot, they avoid reading, as well.

Posted by
317 posts

Norma, too funny! I had someone really disagree with me when I expressed that sentiment in May.

Posted by
441 posts

We were there for 2 days last month and did not go into the Red Light district but did definitely catch the smell several times in various places. No biggie, it passed quickly, I prefer it to cigarette smoke anyway. The thing that surprised me was that so many shops were selling edibles and other stuff (mushrooms, psychedelics, etc). And the mj-themed clothing/accessories everywhere. Socks, hats, shirts, anything you can think of with the leaf on it. It didn't bother me, and my kids (12, 14) laughed at all of it (and the sex-themed merch too). My 14 (almost 15) year old maybe was a little too interested for my liking lol...

If you love art and the great architecture, Amsterdam is up there at the top. I didn't even notice the dope situation and certainly did not partake. Too busy drinking the beer! Rick Steves was right on the money about staying in Haarlem, where again I did not notice any drug places. Great quiet little town and very convenient by train ride to Amsterdam. Day trip to Delft (Vermeer's town) and go to the open market. The local Dutch people are very nice and all speak English. cheers, rm

Posted by
11450 posts

so you certainly did not smoke pot but you drank instead.. and you say that like its a better thing.

Posted by
41 posts

As a sixth-time RS tourist, I have a “problem” with our Heart of Belgium and Holland tour strolling from the Dutch Resistance Museum (“thought-provoking look at how average, everyday people resisted — or collaborated with — their Nazi occupiers”) to a local "coffeeshop" ..”this nation's creative, pragmatic approach to drug policy”. Yes, we are free to skip the creative pot shop visit and take off on our own. But why - at this point in our evolving state laws on marijuana - is this pot shop even on the itinerary? Who cares?

The Pacific Northwest is inundated with legal recreational weed merchants. (Eugene OR has 9 state-controlled liquor stores and 54 pot shops !) Dozens of states are allowing medical use. So herding our group from Netherlands’ national struggles with Nazi Occupation to a “let’s toke up!” lecture is tone-deaf and pointless. However, if we were all escorted into Amsterdam’s FIRST-EVER Krispy Kreme shop...that would be “a nation's creative, pragmatic approach to empty, tasty ‘stoner’ calories” and worth a peek.

Posted by
6841 posts

Yes, we are free to skip the creative pot shop visit and take off on our own. But why - at this point in our evolving state laws on marijuana - is this pot shop even on the itinerary? Who cares?

Maybe data shows that sales for this tour have increased each year despite what you say is happening in the States. If it was your tour business would you risk changing your fortune by cutting out a feature that works as it already is?

Posted by
41 posts

In Holland-Belgium tour reviews from 9/18/18 back through 9/28/16, there were only six references to “coffee” or “coffeeshops.” (Rick’s blog mentioned marijuana 13 times in the last 24 months.)

Two tour members expanded on the “coffee shop” topic:
5/16/18
(Suggested changes): “Second, eliminate the visit to the "coffee house" in Amsterdam. Listening to a stoned individual at 11:00 am talk about all of the virtues of cannabis was only mildly interesting.”
9/28/16
Least favorite stop was the "coffee shop". I hope that stop was made due to popular tour demand instead of Rick's bias for drug legalization.

Any increase in popularity may have more to do with perceived safety of this region of Europe rather any shared affinity for pot. Your marketing data may need a second look.

Posted by
6841 posts

Any increase in popularity may have more to do with perceived safety of this region of Europe rather any shared affinity for pot. Your marketing data may need a second look.

I don't work for RS Tours. i just made up what I said..devils advocate

Posted by
41 posts

Responding to posted “negative” feedback about a tour, within two hours of the post - or less - is the hallmark of a vigilant WebMaster with an attempted “I’m-just-an-average-tourist” persona.

Posted by
25750 posts

within two hours of the post

I don't know what exactly means - I didn't see before and after - but this thread is from April.

Are you complaining about something this week or 6 months ago, Tom?

Posted by
41 posts

I’m commenting on an interesting aspect of this website’s posts and blogs, regardless of the topic’s start date.

It should not be a news flash that some websites and their WebMasters have remarkable abilities to seek out and intercept words, phrases, ideas they deem a problem. A recent example is Facebook’s algorithmic censors catching an online newspaper’s early July Facebook posts of sections of the Declaration of Independence. They labeled sections of the Declaration hate speech and removed the posts as a violation of their community standards. Facebook later apologized and reinstated the post.

ricksteves.com’s Travel Forum and blog sites have numerous examples of negative content being pounced on immediately by “fellow travelers” (most with thousands of posts to their credit), vigorously defending Rick, the tour and the company. Sometimes a post will be rejected on receipt by the web administrator.

I’ve had a prior post - responding to an RS admonition to ignore a recent bombing/mass killing in one of his tour countries - pulled within hours by the WebMaster. This website’s software seems to catch every negative comment, no matter how obscure or long dormant the topic might be. Then the Multi-Post Club quickly jumps to the podium and helps us see the situation more clearly.

Posted by
2727 posts

Tom, why don't you start a new topic on this so it can adequately be discussed? Your issue is not about Amsterdam or pot, etc. so many people will miss your post and opinion if you stay in this topic, and you'll be stealing Laurie's topic.

Posted by
8293 posts

Aw, Tom, you, too, can have thousands of posts if you try really, really hard.

Posted by
41 posts

“We just spoke with baby boomers who did not enjoy Amsterdam
due to the overwhelming marijuana everywhere. Is this becoming
a problem for tourists?
Thank you!”

In response, I posed the question: why parade your paying tourists into a pot shop for an even closer “in-your-face!” experience? Is this insensitive to parents in the group who may have buried “stoner” children who moved on to an eventual overdose? Not an unreasonable consideration. But some people don’t “believe” in gateway drugs.

As for Cartagena’s take on American rudeness, how is possible to totally miss the point of the Facebook/Declaration of Independence incident? A social media powerhouse is choosing to censor history. In 2016, it removed a posting of a Pulitzer-prize winning photograph -The Terror of War - and suspended the account of Norwegian Tom Egeland. The photograph shows children, including the naked nine-year-old Kim Phúc, fleeing a napalm attack during the Vietnam war. “Grimly ironic?”
No. It’s abuse of power, as we learned during the 2016 election.

(Wow. So off topic! I’m exiting now to look for posts on my pet peeve - uneven, treacherous European sidewalks, designed to take down us senior citizen RS tourists.)

Posted by
1139 posts

Everybody will be coming to Canada soon, we'll have to learn how to make clogs, build windmills and grow tulips in greenhouses.

Watching Netherlands batter Germany.

Posted by
127 posts

Along the super-touristy zone between Centraal and Dam Square, it's visitor stoner city. Red Light district too. Do as Rick does, and get away from the tourist zones, and you won't notice a thing. BTW, I've walked all over Amsterdam as late as 2am and not felt the least bit concerned for my safety. I think your friends may have been looking for negatives...it's really not that bad IMHO.

Posted by
12339 posts

Pink Floyd was already recording since the late 1960s as did Deep Purple. Remember "Summer Time Blues?"

I was in Amsterdam on a day trip in 2014, didn't come across the so-called prevalent marijuana smell. I wasn't a conservative baby boomer, certainly not then, but grass was not a matter of importance to me, only indifference. I smell more marijuana in SF than I did ever did in Amsterdam.

Would the prevalence of marijuana in Amsterdam pose a problem and deter me from revisiting the city? Of course not, I could care less about that. I would still go there regardless.

Posted by
3465 posts

Tom,

The visit to the "coffee shop" is nothing like you present it, or at least it wasn't when I was on the tour.

There was no stoned person at 11:00 am telling us how great it was (well, there was the one tourist from the US, but he was not the official spokesperson of either RS or the coffee shop, he was just annoying and quickly removed from the premises). We were given an interesting lecture on the current law in Amsterdam at that point in time in regard to the sale and use of marijuana. No one forced us to be on that part of the day's tour activities. No one was pressing us to buy anything. No one was extolling the benefits of smoking anything. The part of the coffee shop we were in was actually a bar and you had to go next door to purchase weed. I don't believe anyone who was part of the RS tour did that.

Maybe as the decriminalization continues to expand in the US, this part of the tour will become less important and be replaced with some other activity. I found it interesting, even though I have no interest in marijuana, because it showed that the demon weed does not cause the total collapse of civilization when it is allowed to be used by those who choose to do so.

And no, I am not a RS staff member disguising myself as a tour member. I doubt there are any people here who do that, the RS employees are clearly identified as such. Neither am I compensated in any way for being here. I am an actual tour member, 10 RS tours in total so far, and I really like their way of doing tours. I come here a lot, read the messages and reply when I feel the need.

Posted by
12339 posts

If you want to be exposed to the odor of marijuana, take the Muni bus system in SF often enough and chances are that you'll run into that smell on the coach, maybe you'll see someone light up inside the bus. No one cares or dares to say anything against it.

Posted by
248 posts

This may be obvious, but to newbies the thing you must not do, if you have purchased these substances and have any left, do not try to take them into the US. Even inadvertently forgetting a substance is still in your baggage could have a serious results.

Posted by
12339 posts

In terms of "less appealing for tourists," however one defines that description, it was reported in the local news here this past week that in spite of the gritty, if not plain dumpy, aspects of SF, drug use, the homeless problem, traffic problem, cost of hotel rooms, etc, and no one can deny that the city has become dirtier, more unsightly with that more prevalent than it has ever been, etc etc , SF in 2018, despite all these negative aspects, scored its highest number in tourists, presumably, both domestic and international.

Obviously, all these numerous negative things, real or perceived, that one sees here have not affected or deterred tourists from visiting here, thereby, causing this record of number in tourism to be set.

Posted by
656 posts

I am actually thinking of traveling to the Netherlands in 2019. My motivation to go to this country might be, when I was younger what I liked or thought I liked most in the Detroit Institute of Art was the old Dutch paintings. I don’t remember whether I knew about Netherlands drug policy. For about a year, marijuana smokers lived in a neighboring apartment in my apartment building. The place had a nasty odor like a combination of chocolate, a campfire, a porto-potty, and some kind of disgusting spice like tumeric or cumin. To me the stench of marijuana (and tobacco) is offensively disgusting and worse. l think drug use in general should not exist, it is an abomination. I realize that some people feel like marijuana is cute, sexy, tittilating, cool, interesting, romantic, and so on. I don’t use alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, caffeine, or any other drug or grug-like substance. (It is not braging if it is true). I have no sense of humor about drug use. I was born in 1983. I am sure many others - my age, younger, and older - share my view, it is just not politically correct so say it.

Posted by
2 posts

No. It does`t affect your holiday. I was in Amsterdam in 2017 with my family and nothing went wrong. People are kind and ctity - perfect)