The History of Marijuana in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is known for its famous “coffeeshops” where customers can purchase and consume cannabis for their own personal use. For this reason, the capital and the Netherlands as a whole have a history with the drug, which can be traced back to 1953. This is when the Opium Act was amended to include cannabis on the list of drugs facing criminal offenses. Dutch authorities had initially responded repressively, due to the increase of psychoactive drugs in the 1960s, but they soon evolved when amending the Opium Act again in 1976, which launched the national policy of tolerance for small scale marijuana use.

In 1976, the Dutch government amended the Opium Act to distinguish between drugs lists, those that present "an unacceptable risk (heroin, cocaine and LSD),” and cannabis products. At this point in history, the first coffeeshop, The Bulldog, had opened the previous year, so this new amendment only encouraged more coffeeshops to open. By the early 1990s, the number of coffeeshops expanded to 1,500, so the government began regulating them by enacting strict rules including no advertising, no hard drugs, no access to people under the age of 18, no sales in excess of five grams per person on a given day, and no causing public nuisance.  

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Few other entrepreneurs in the cannabis space have their hands in quite as many ventures as Lorne Gertner. Currently dubbed the "godfather of the Canadian cannabis industry," Gertner told Civilized, "If we could live through normalization, we could change the world." Hailing from the fashion industry, this Toronto native says he's on a mission to "make the world a better place through cannabis and design excellence." The only catch is, well, normalizing cannabis — and that's where Gertner's keen eye for style comes in. "In the old days, you were going to be different or you were going to be normal," said Thom Antonio, Gertner's friend, creative director, and collaborator of 35 years.

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