The Dutch have been tolerating widespread cannabis use far longer than Americans, with both hash and marijuana decriminalized since 1976 in the Netherlands (although still not, technically, legal.)

As a slew of states prepare to vote on legalization this fall, and Canada rolls out plans to rescind prohibition by next spring, we should look to the Netherlands for some tips on how to safely smoke really, really strong weed in style. 

1. Pick your poison

The Netherlands appear to have a go-slow approach to combining drugs. Recreational establishments in the Netherlands either sell alcohol, or cannabis - not both. As of July 2008,  tobacco was also banned in coffee shops, restaurants and bars, even ones where you can smoke cannabis. There are separate areas in many clubs and coffee shops for those who want to smoke joints with tobacco. Its a sensible approach: combining drugs, whether cannabis and alcohol, or cannabis and tobacco, increases your chances of a) getting too messed up and b) developing a harder-to-kick habit.

2. Be discrete

In Amsterdam, for example, coffee shops don't advertise: often there's no indication that they even sell cannabis until you approach the counter and ask to see the menu. According to the Amsterdam Knowledge Base, "rolling or making of joints in public is frowned upon by everyone. While it is technically not illegal, it generally regarded as bad form." This kind of discretion applies anywhere in the world: just because you enjoy cannabis doesn't mean you need to flaunt it in the face of nonsmokers, especially kids and sensitive seniors. Be a good ambassador.

3. Respect edibles

Dutch consumers know spacecake is no joke: only first timers would impulsively eat too much, then trip out for 17 hours. Even if you smoke all the time it's crucial to be mentally prepared, and have proper time set aside, for intense high edibles can deliver. As The Mighty Boosh said, start with one, and "wait about an hour. See how you feel. Don’t eat 15 in one go, because you will see the devil, and he’ll try and rip your heart out through your kneecaps.” 

4. Keep perspective

You know this already - but cannabis isn't a gateway drug. Rates of addiction are still lower in Holland than in countries with a strict prohibition policy - and cocaine, heroine, ecstasy, and other hard drugs are still illegal. A rational, responsible, Euro-style approach as America readies itself for legalization will go a long way toward undoing years of Drug War-era propaganda.

Banner image: An idyllic photo from Zaanse Schans village in Holland. (shutterstock.com)