The Smoke Ring

The misconception: America’s marijuana laws are draconian compared to the Netherlands, whose citizens can sell and smoke weed all day, errday.

Not so.

Sure, there are Amsterdam shops that sell to both tourists and natives, but they’re operating illegally under the auspices of “tolerance.” To avoid incredible financial penalties, they must maintain a small inventory, they can’t sell much to any one person, they can’t post ingredients, they can’t sell to minors, the list of rules goes on.

If you don’t nail a perfect gram on the first chop, you have to make the weight by laboriously shaving brown flour into the scale pan while the customer volubly wonders who let this fumbling idiot behind the bar. Compounding my professional stress is the computerized inventory system, which, as a prophylactic against embezzlement, is finely tuned to track near-atomic quantities of product that might go missing. (For example, the system builds in a standard deduction for the sticky crumbs of hash residue that cling to the edge of the kitchen knife.) It’s like working at a Starbucks where the customers are cranky zombies, where a latte costs fifty bucks, and where a stray speck of coffee grounds falling underfoot will probably mean an ass-chewing from your superintimidating manager.

We may not have as tolerant a government on this side of the pond, but our slow path towards semi-legalization leads to a more concrete destination.

Conversely, America, via the sturdier Trojan horse of medical marijuana, looks poised to chart a wiser course, through policies that more closely resemble full legalization than “tolerance.” While Dutch dollars still flow to Baltic thugs, states like Michigan license small-time growers to provide for certified “patients.” American legalization would also almost certainly include FDA regulation and chemical analysis of the product for sale. […]

By liberating cannabis from the symbolic company of heroin, cocaine, and Ecstasy and grafting it to the sympathetic litany of “glaucoma, cancer, and AIDS,” America’s cannabis activists have, by all appearances, begun extending marijuana’s roots into the culture to depths undreamed by the Dutch. At the start of 2010, Los Angeles alone had nearly as many dispensaries as Holland has shops, one of the reasons that Dutch weed professionals sound like Dust Bowl Okies when they talk about California and the other markets emerging in the United States.

Interesting article throughout. Told from the perspective of a journalist who had to work at an Amsterdam marijuana coffee shop for a week.

[Wells Tower @ GQ via the Browser]

UPDATE. Highly relevant scene from Pulp Fiction:

Thanks Kottke.

[image via SBS film]
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September 6, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Reading.

3 Comments

  1. Luke Johnson replied:

    Wells Tower (the author) is one hell of a short-story writer, too. His book “Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned” is god-damned exceptional.

  2. philliposophy replied:

    Luke, this comment validates my long beard stroking session about whether or not I’d bother with the authors’ names whose work I reference or just focus on their finished content.
    But obviously, having known a handful of fine practicing writers in my day, I have to at least mention them right? I mean, not everyone will click through and read the whole shebang. And if they do, they may not notice who wrote it.

    Enough ruminations.
    Took a note of the book. I’ve heard of it. Your book recommendations (I hear) are not to be ignored. Will seek it out when I go to the library/poor-folk shelter later this week. Still slogging through The Glass Bead Game. It’s been months with this thing. I need to move on.

  3. Kro replied:

    My impression of the Netherlands’ policy was that it was legal to possess but illegal to purchase, except from the “coffee shops” who seem to have pretty strict regulations place upon them. The laws seemed loosely enforced from an outside perspective. interesting read.

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