Ah, traditional airport arrivals signs, that Live Laugh Love of respectable aviation: “Welcome”, “Willkommen”, “Bienvue”... “Stay Away”? That’s the blunt new tagline from Amsterdam’s tourist board goes, aimed at stubbing out the influx of boisterous UK tourists heading to the Netherlands to hit up the clubs, hunt for some truffles, have a peep at some shows and, of course, smoke copious amounts of weed.
If you’re an 18-25 British man and you search for something like “pub crawl Amsterdam” you’ll soon be served a budget ad (like this one), showing a man who's taken too many pills getting bundled into an ambulance. With an eye-reddening 2.5 million UK tourists heading on a jolly to the city every single year, it’s no wonder the city’s clamping down. If you actually live in Amsterdam, it’s not ideal having Leidseplein taken over by likely unlikeable lads looking to cause mischief every single night of the week.
Even if you’re not from the UK, Amsterdam isn’t going to hit the same. The city’s council has banned ogling tourists and anyone else from smoking weed in the Red Light District; handed sex workers a 3AM curfew; made closing time for bars 2AM on Fridays and Saturdays; and barred anyone from entering the Old Center after 1AM. As if that wasn’t strict enough, the city’s still toying with the idea of restricting coffee shops to permanent residents, which would send the whole weed visitor industry up in smoke.
In short, cannabis tourists are being weeded out.
The Super Silver lining? It'll push anyone looking to light up to be a little more adventurous and explore new hotspots for smoking weed, rather than sticking to the same sticky stuff we're smoked since we first went years ago. The question is, though, where’s the next Amsterdam going to be? How far away are we from crowning a new cannabis capital? To get ahead of the game, here's a look at some of the candidates for cannabis clout – perhaps the grass really is greener on the other side.
A New Leaf: Germany
There’s a meme in Germany, usually featuring a suited-and-booted politician or a penguin with a massive phone that asks when weed will become legal: “Wanna bubatz legal?” Spreading on Reddit, it went viral after several German politicians were asked it live on air, including Chancellor Olaf Sholz, who had no idea what “bubatz” even meant (it’s slang for a joint, basically).
For a while, there was hope. A bill planned to legalise cannabis for recreational use across the country and regulate the sale of weed, allowing personal possession of up to 30 grams for adults and the option to grow two plants. The idea was to permit licensed stores and dispensaries (basically coffeeshops) to sell weed – with all of it will be homegrown rather than imported.
But sadly, although it initially received positive feedback from the European Union, a scaled-back cannabis legalisation plan was announced in April 2022. The focus has shifted to home cultivation, where adults can grow up to three plants. They will be able to buy weed in cannabis social clubs, with a maximum of 500 members, rather than licensed shops or pharmacies.
Slang to learn: “Bubatz”, meaning joint.
The Competitor: Czech Republic
Maybe it was fate that the Czech Republic would become a major player in the weed world: Its dialling code is literally +420. Medical cannabis has been legal in the Czech Republic for a decade and the domestic grower industry was demonopolised in 2022. You can also currently smoke hemp with one percent THC right now, but that's unlikely to get you actually high. For those who live there, there’s a pretty generous decrimmed allowance of ten grams of marijuana and five plants. While it’s still illegal to smoke in public, you’re likely to get away with lighting up in Prague.
Anyway, legalisation supporter Jindřich Vobořil has returned as the country's drug coordinator and is pushing for a legal cannabis market, now supported by Prime Minister Petr Fiala. It makes sense: 550,000 Czechs grow weed at home and it's got the highest number of weed smokers in the entire EU. Currently hashing out plans, the government hopes to push something through by next year – and the stag do magnet doesn’t seem to have any intentions on getting UK tourists to stay away.
Slang to learn: “Být zhulenej”, meaning to be smoked (in other words, to be stoned as fuck).
The Cannabis Clubbers: Malta, Catalonia
Malta and Catalonia might not immediately spring to mind when you think of weed, but both states are pretty progressive when it comes to cannabis laws.
Malta became the first EU nation to legalise bud back in December 2021, letting adults carry seven grams of cannabis and cultivate four plants. While it’s still illegal to smoke in public, the Maltese Authority for the Responsible
Use of Cannabis opened up cannabis club applications in February this year. It'll cost €1,000 to apply and require an interview process, but while club directors have to have lived in Malta for five years, the founders don't have to be residents at all. The clubs will grow their own weed (no THC cap!) and can set up in residential areas. Some bad news though – tourist access is TBA.
Then there’s Catalonia. While weed is decriminalised for personal use across the whole of Spain, recreational and medicinal cannabis are still illegal. In Catalonia, though, some 500 cannabis clubs (“asociaciones cannábicas”) make use of a loophole to provide hangout places for people to light up and hang out, including a couple of hundred in Barcelona. While they’re technically for residents you’ll probably be able to get in as a tourist as long as you’re not blatant, as most are pretty lax on checking you actually live in Spain – just don't be bait, yeah?
Slang to learn: “Porro” – it literally means leek, but also refers to a joint in Catalonian.
The Trailblazers: Canada, Uruguay
Only two countries in the world have legalised weed. While you might’ve guessed Canada correctly, most people sleep on Uruguay – the first ever nation to allow recreational cannabis, way back in 2013. Surprisingly, it wasn’t down to the will of the people: 58-66 percent of Uruguayans actually opposed the measure at the time. Regardless, it’s now legal for residents to buy up to 40 grams per month from licensed pharmacies, though many choose to buy from dealers since it’s way more diverse and cheaper. The current national drug czar is confident that Uruguay will legalise weed for tourists, even by this year – though we’ll be charged higher prices than locals. Either way, you’re not going to get in trouble blazing up.
Canada followed suit in 2018, legalising weed across the entire country. It’s also one of the only places in the world where it’s totally legal for tourists to buy and smoke weed from more than 3,000 authorised vendors. You're allowed to possess up to 30 grams and, for most states, you can spark up wherever you’re allowed to smoke cigs.
Slang to know: According to an excellently out-of-touch list from the Government of Canada: “shatter”, “budder”, “honeycomb” or “dank krippy”. For Uruguay, “Cogollo” means high quality weed that’s the cream of the crop.
The Top Draw: Colorado, California
Sure, it’s a bit of a trek from the UK, but if you’re really into your weed, then Colorado and California are the hot tickets. They're two of the 21 states in the U.S. that’ve legalised bud and are renowned for their high-quality, mind-bendingly good, extremely potent flower. It's a big, booming business: California has bagged a mad $4 billion in tax revenue since starting to sell weed, with Colorado not too far behind on $2.3 billion.
As long as you’re over 21 (which might actually discount a lot of Amsterdam-goers) you’re allowed to buy pot as a tourist in either state. It’s worth the trip: You’ll be able to sample monolithically iconic strains including Wedding Cake, Girl Scout Cookies and Sour Diesel.
Slang to know: “Flower” sounds cool, doesn’t it?
The Classics: Jamaica, Thailand
Before weed growers went mad and crossbred every crop they could get their mitts on to create THC monsters, there was landrace – the original strains that grow naturally in the wild. One of them is “thai”, a pure sativa that entered the U.S. in the 70s. Another is “lamb’s bread”, grown in Jamaica and the preferred strain of Bob Marley. With such a rich, green history, it’s little wonder that weed is a big deal in both countries.
In 2022, Thailand delisted weed as a drug, leading to 5,000 cannabis cafes and weed stores opening shop and creating a so-called “Weed Wild West” for intrepid tourists. It’s worth noting, though, smoking in public could land you a three-month prison sentence, so you’ve got to tread carefully.
In Jamaica, it's illegal to smoke ganja, but possession of up to 57 grams is not a criminal offence (though you might get a couple of quid fine if you're carrying it around in public). Medical marijuana is legal and the law is really loose, meaning that wellness centres such as the Kaya Herbhouse have an on-site doctor to give you the forms to buy legal weed, if you've got any sort of anxiety, pain or minor health condition. It's currently a bit of a mess, though. Bizarrely, Jamaica is importing a lot of weed from Canada rather than having a homegrown strategy, which means it's missing out on local economic opportunities.
Slang to know: “Ganja” for both.
The Staycation: Ireland
OK, so weed isn’t legal yet in Ireland, but clutch a four-leaf clover, because that might change soon. The Irish Parliament recently introduced a bill to legalise cannabis use for adults and allow possession of up to seven grams. Of course, that doesn’t mean anything yet in terms of coffeeshops, dispensaries, clubs or tourists, so the Emerald Isle isn’t giving out green yet.
Slang to know: Nothing you haven’t heard before.
The Cannabis Connect: Morocco
In terms of air miles and expenditure, Morocco isn't an easy swap for Amsterdam. Much of the hash available in Dam comes from Morocco: it’s top, top gear. Cultivated illegally across the country, it led to Morocco becoming the world’s largest cannabis exporter in 2016. Then, in 2021, medical and industrial weed was made legal but it's still illegal for recreational use. Regardless, “kif” tourism is rife: Cities like Chefchaouen and Ketama are full of hush-hush tour guides ready to take you on a field trip, give you a quick history lesson and provide you with quality weed tasting.
Slang to know: “Kif”.
The Wildcard: Kanepi
Forget Boaty McBoatface: Citizens of the Estonian borough of Kanepi (whose name is actually a letter away from spelling out the word for “cannabis” in Estonian) voted to make its new flag and coat of arms a massive green weed leaf. The city council spun out and decided to put the vote to its officials, and luckily they came through with a nine-eight victory for the design. Weed might still be illegal, but possessing up to seven point five grams is decriminalised – so raise the flag, your lighter, and a fat one to getting stoned in Estonia!
Slang to know: “Kanep”, you dope!