SAN FRANCISCO BAY GUARDIAN
July 13, 1996
by RICHARD S. EHRLICH
AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS
-- Stoned revolutionaries are using medical
science, the Internet and homegrown Dutch weed to blunt the
U.S.-led war on drugs and to try to free the thousands of "green
prisoners" locked up around the world for smoking grass.
"We are not a cult. We are a culture. Our culture," Joan Harnack,
from Cambridge, Ontario, told the Bay Guardian as she smoked a
joint at the International Cannabis Club (ICC). Grant Krieger from
Saskatchewan inhaled a few hits and said: "The reason I came here
is because of the war on drugs in North America. I am a reefer
Meanwhile an American called Eagle Bill plugs in an
industrial-strength paint-stripping gun -- it resembles a power
drill -- and sticks the business end into a small bowl of pot which is atop a
hookah pipe with a water-filled glass beaker. He cheerfully offers
free hits of marijuana vapor. "I do this because I want to make
angels sing," says Bill, who has christened this strange pipe the
Weed smokers are ubiquitous and deeply entrenched in Holland.
Hundreds of "coffee shops" sell key-chain-size one-gram clusters
of marijuana buds for a starting price of around $7. Each day
thousands of people puff and rap, gape, giggle and relax in the
laid-back ambience of these legal, smoky speakeasies bearing names
like Dutch Flowers, Free City, Lucky Mothers, Old Church, and
But behind the carefree scenes, worried activists are organizing
to fight anti-drug pressure being exerted on Holland by the United
States, France, and other governments. Now more than ever, Holland
is being told to stop partying and to adopt stricter laws against
drug possession and sales.
While physically addictive hard drugs -- such as heroin and
cocaine -- are illegal in the Netherlands, marijuana and hashish,
its clay-like concentrate, are considered soft drugs. Sales and
personal possession of as many as 30 grams of marijuana, or
slightly more than one ounce, are legal.
"When you come to Amsterdam you see how things are done when
marijuana is legal," one grass activist said. "Then, when you go
home, you can compare Amsterdam with your city. You have a
reference point for how it is."
In Holland the public can buy marijuana or hashish imported from
Morocco, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Thailand,
and elsewhere. Equally potent is the specially bred marijuana
grown in the Netherlands -- dubbed nederwiet and nederhash --
that goes by such names as Northern Light, Shiva, Biocronic,
Warlock and Bubble Gum.
"The Dutch grass rivals any top quality of its peers because it's
not imported, bricked and sitting in containers for months before
being smuggled in. It is always fresh," a Dutch activist explained
on an Internet site called Amsterdam MoonCity.
But the Dutch government, already being pressured by anti-drug
countries, is concerned that the growing popularity of nederwiet
could turn the Netherlands into a drug exporter -- something the
government doesn't want. "This homegrown product, which is rapidly
gaining in popularity, is giving rise to a new problem," says a
government booklet titled Drugs Policy in the Netherlands. "The
Netherlands is in danger of becoming a cannabis-exporting country,
exports being of the homegrown product, and everything must be
done to prevent this from happening."
Marijuana smoke billows in the spacious three-story Drugs Peace
House building in which the International Cannabis Club, founded by pro-pot activists in
December 1994, is housed. Inside, ICC staff brainstorm their next
urgent communique defending Holland's freedoms and ready it to be
put on the Internet via a computer link upstairs.
"First came word of a shift by the Dutch government to a
'closed-door policy' for cannabis-smoking foreigners," an ICC
press release said. "The Dutch government seems willing to seal
off the local market: no more foreign cannabis products bought at
the back door of the coffee shop, no more nederwiet and
nederhash sold to foreign customers at the front door."
It has been estimated that more than 10 million Americans have
been arrested on marijuana-related charges since 1965. In light of
that, Drugs Peace House recently organized an exhibit titled
"Atrocities of the Drug War." Claiming that the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights was being violated by the United
States' war on drugs, the exhibit documented how "people in the
U.S. have suffered increasing invasions of their privacy,
including phone taps, intrusive urine testing, infrared scanning
of homes, garbage and mail searches, computer searches of bank
records and utility bills, and racially discriminatory profile
"It is time to declare a truce in this drug war in order to seek a
peaceful end to this long, futile, and divisive conflict," the
exhibit literature reads.
Meanwhile Amsterdam coffee shops warn first-time smokers against
buying drugs from illegal international trafficking sources and
about the health hazards to pregnant women.
"Some people become talkative, others reserved," reads a flyer
titled Advice on Hash and Weed that is given out by the
management at the Grasshopper coffee shop. "One does not know in
advance how [marijuana] will affect one. It may work out
differently every time. Use hash for your pleasure, but not to
smoke away stress and uncertainty. You do not solve problems by
lighting a joint." The flyer adds, "Do not use at school, at your
work, or if you still have to study."
The real power behind the weed scene in Amsterdam is the growers,
licensed commercial harvesters who breed and produce the strongest
marijuana possible. An estimated 300 tons of marijuana is consumed
each year in Holland, and more than half of it is homegrown. One
of the most influential commercial growers is Wernard, who runs
the Positronics Sinsemilla Fanclub.
In the Positronics building is a maze of severe arc-lit rooms
filled with hundreds of flowerpots in which various varieties of
dark green marijuana are sprouting. One room contains the coveted
"mothers," older plants nurtured to produce the best seeds and
transplantable cuttings, to be used for clones. Positronics sells
not only grass but also virtually every item required to cultivate
marijuana, including seeds, 1,000-watt indoor lighting systems,
ventilators, and pollinators, as well as an array of smoking
"We sell a 16-ton press to make hashish," Wernard said, pointing
to a large, rectangular, heavy metal press. "We also sell a 2-ton
model, which is more portable and less expensive."
Meanwhile, Positronics' "bush doctor" explains agricultural and
growing details to customers near a smoking room and cafe. The ever
optimistic, talkative Dutch can't explain why their country is the
only nation in which marijuana is legal. "Maybe the way the sea
can wash over everything means we don't care too much and want to
have fun," said Wernard, referring to below-sea-level Holland's
vulnerability to floods.
Positronics also sells marijuana specifically for people with
medical conditions such as glaucoma, or those in chemotherapy,
whose pain can be eased by marijuana.
To promote medical use of grass abroad, Positronics gave
42-year-old Canadian Grant Krieger, who suffers from multiple
sclerosis, a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of marijuana in May to bring
back to Toronto.
A Dutch doctor had issued Krieger a prescription for the marijuana
to alleviate pain. After the Drugs Peace House alerted the media,
Krieger was able to convince Canadian officials to allow him to
bring the marijuana back to Canada as a personal possession. But
when Krieger declared his shopping bag of weed at Amsterdam's
Schiphol Airport, Dutch authorities seized it because he lacked an
Copyright by Richard S. Ehrlich
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Richard S. Ehrlich's Asia news, non-fiction book titled, "Hello My Big Big Honey!" plus hundreds of photographs are available at his website http://www.oocities.com/asia_correspondent