Tag Archive for: marijuana

Stoner? Planning a vacation? Have no fear, guest writer ‘The Hemperor’ has you covered with the info on these two pothead-friendly destinations…

As a consummate consumer of cannabis for over 10 years, I’ve had my fair share of experience with purchasing and blazing the sweet sweet herbaaj. You can buy weed all over the world, relatively easily: from Peru to Portugal, I have never struck out. However, obviously, and ridiculously, it is still not legal for the majority of the civilised (pah) world. Fortunately, amidst the mire of parochial control and legislation shine 2 pinnacles of hope: Amsterdam and Colorado: real-world locations where one can legally purchase weed and without hassle. Thus, following a recent trip to Colorado, our esteemed editor asked me to compare the buying and schameewking experiences of these 2 beautiful locations in an effort to tackle the question; ‘Which is the ultimate stoner’s destination?’
Let’s take a look….

$$$ Buying $$$


amsterdam canal

Coffee shops

The term ‘coffee shop’ is applied loosely in Amsterdam and basically means ‘somewhere you can go to buy and smoke weed’. Coffee shops represent a much more pleasant buying experience than that found in the majority of the world. Most places have a menu with the different strains available and the price per gram – or per pre-rolled joint.

coffeeshop amsterdam

Across the city a wide range of herb and concentrates are available, quality and range are dependent on the shop, but, I can assure you, there is some great product out there. You can find some very well-written guides online to coffee shops in Amsterdam, from both a chilling and purchasing perspective, and I thoroughly recommend checking these out before you head out and get too bleary-eyed. I personally find that in some of the busier shops it is difficult to spend as much time as you would like with the menu, as there is always a very stoned and annoying (normally British) tourist waiting to order coffee behind you.


No coffee shops in Colorado, weed is sold in dispensaries here – basically dedicated weed shops that are licensed sellers of cannabis. Unlike the Dutch coffee shops, one cannot smoke in dispensaries, they are solely for picking up.
weed scales


After passing through an antechamber where your ID is checked, you then enter the inner sanctum; a fairly small, windowless, yet exceptionally clean and well presented room with a slightly clinical or at least therapeutic vibe. It’s how I imagine a waiting room at the Church of Scientology, were the walls not festooned with posters advertising the available products. On entering the room you are greeted by a vast array of herb in large glass jars, and many types of concentrates and devices – most of which I’d never seen before. Normally, there are only a few people in the room at any one time so your experience does not feel rushed. It didn’t hurt that the first person to serve me was a 10/10 smoke-show, so I walked out of my first buying experience with a smile and a huge bag of goodies, including a Girl Scout Cookies-Lemon Haze cross , which may well be the best weed I have ever smoked.

weed jars cannabis marijuana

As predicted, following legalisation, the USA has taken it upon itself to push marijuana to its extremes and to develop innovative and delicious products – trust the Yanks to go big or go home; I couldn’t be more pleased.



Perhaps the better of the two experiences for a tourist as smoking is permitted in coffee shops – just remember you can’t mix it with tobacco. Coffee shops can vary quite a bit in terms of decor and seating, from places reminiscent of an old English pub – a basic place with few wooden benches and tables, perhaps a TV hanging up – to more modern places with cushioned sofas and dimly lit areas for chilling more comfortably.

coffee shopThis means that you can buy your weed and accompanying Chocomel, and be sat toking within a matter of seconds, sitting and giggling (or just chilling) with your mates or socialising easily with those around you. On the flip side, many of the cafes are not hugely comfortable, and you will tend to be reminded to buy drinks on a regular basis. Smoking discretely outside in parks and on the streets is also permitted, or at least accepted. The best solution may be to find one of the bars or other venues which will permit you to smoke there – I don’t think this is technically legal but it seems to be commonplace in The Dam.


Unlike Amsterdam, there are no specific locations for consumption of cannabis. Staying in AirBnBs or similar locations where the owners have a good 420 policy means that you can buy your green from one of the many dispensaries but have to take it home to enjoy. With the vast array of edibles and ‘non-obvious’ cannabis products (such as sprays or e-cigarettes) however, you have no excuse to be sober at any time in Colorado. The lack of designated smoking areas does somewhat limit your options and also the ease with which you can meet other like-minded individuals.

colorado nature mountains

Though you’re probably not supposed to, smoking in the state’s awesome nature isn’t a problem


Amsterdam stood alone for years, Colorado has joined more recently, and we are seeing changes all over the world in terms of societies progressively more sensible approaches to ganja. Even in the UK, which tends to be so keen on tradition and reluctant to change, law enforcement in some areas have made statements that they will not actively pursue those growing or personally consuming small amounts. Perhaps global change is on the horizon – as and when it happens, there are lessons to be learned from Amsterdam and Colorado for how to get the faacking job done.

Hailing from the UK, Amsterdam is a mere hour by air, and as such, I am a relatively regular visitor. It is a truly beautiful city, with many fascinating things to do, and is the original home of legal blazing. Within a morning, I can go from a grey UK to a metropolitan city that accepts my choices and gives me access to a plethora of cannabis products that I would struggle to find anywhere in Europe. Each time I leave I promise myself that I will never go back, as life is short and the earth is very large, yet every couple of years, I find myself in Leidesplein.

Colorado on the other hand is a good 8 hour flight, with commensurate increases in expense, but I would visit again in a heartbeat. This was my first visit to the USA, and so perhaps some of my enthusiasm is rooted in novelty, but there is something attractive about the nonchalant attitude to smoking held by the populace, even so soon after legalisation. In Amsterdam, it still feels like you are doing something wrong somehow – in Colorado, the enthusiasm and knowledge of the products shown in dispensaries was more akin to what you might find in a specialist wine shop, which I enjoyed very much. As a caveat – I am not a Dutch speaker, whereas as the Americans pretty much speak English.

If money were no object, Colorado would be my preference for a repeat visit. I feel that there is still so much to see, having only spent time in Denver and Boulder, both of which I would high-ly recommend, and from a purely ganja-perspective, I do think that they have the edge over Amsterdam.


If you haven’t had your head in the sand (and unless Donny T has changed things radically since publication), you may well be aware that an increasing number of states are at least partially-legalising the dro’. These states have a great model to follow in Colorado and high standards to meet, and hopefully, surpass. Road trip anyone?

uruguay flag punta del este
uruguay flag punta del este

Punta Del Este, Uruguay

December 10th 2013. This was the date that the tiny South American nation of Uruguay broke new ground and became the first country in the world to (re) legalize marijuana. Jose Mujica, the leftist now ex-president who pushed the initiative, was hailed as a hero by stoners worldwide, and other countries watched on to see what would happen. As an occasional indulger of the herb and a supporter of legalisation, the country was a must-visit stop on my tour of Latin America. I ended up spending a month in the country and the weed situation wasn’t exactly how I imagined it. So what is it like?


As a tourist you’re not legally allowed to buy cannabis. That right is reserved for Uruguayan nationals and residents. Still, must be dead easy to pick up in a country where it’s legal right? Not so fast. Because of the incredibly slow rate at which the state is sorting out ‘government cannabis’, buying from licensed sellers isn’t an option because, to date, there aren’t any. This means no dispensaries, coffee shops, pharmacies, or any official outlet where one can go to legally buy cannabis. Sorry to shatter your weed-utopia dreams. Effectively, Uruguayans have to grow their own cannabis if they want to smoke it legally, or be given some by a friend. It’s not even legal for growers to sell their herb as their cultivation hasn’t been overseen to match government regulations. I know, not quite how I imagined the first country in the world to legalize cannabis either.

Update July 2017: Pharmacies in Uruguay started selling marijuana on 19th July. You can read more about it at these links:
Long Lines, $1.30 Grams Mark Uruguay’s Legal Cannabis Debut – Leafly
Uruguay, First Country in the World to Legally Regulate Marijuana, Begins Retail Sales Today – Drug Policy Alliance

montevideo coast uruguay

Montevideo, the country’s capital

With that said, you’ll have to buy weed illegally from a home grower. Yes, still black market! This makes finding weed a little more difficult than you might’ve expected, but not that difficult. Asking around in hostels will likely find you some leads, but its certainly not guaranteed – a friend and I had a few fruitless days searching in Punta Del Este, luckily the remains of his stash held us over until the day we found more – by a stroke of luck, meeting a local on the street. The herb found me on more than one occasion, but usually as being invited to smoke with others rather than as an opportunity to top up my personal stash.


Because you’re buying on the black market there is no official price and how much you pay will vary. Uruguay is not a cheap country in general and the price of the weed reflects this. Typically you’ll pay more in tourist areas, at the upper end expect to pay the equivalent of UK prices – £6 / $7.50 per gram. The price can drop down to about half that, and if you’re lucky you may well be gifted some by a proud grower or just some friendly dude, as I was on a couple of occasions.

uruguay punta del este joint

Enjoying a J on a fisherman’s pier, Punta Del Este.

Tourists can expect to pay more so if you have a Uruguayan buddy who can buy for you, you’ll almost certainly get a better rate. This happened to me in Cabo Polonio; I first bought some at the equivalent of UK prices then later befriended a local who went to the exact same guy, paid a bit less cash, and got a bit more green.


Because of the non-existence of official sellers, you won’t find the choice of herb or product that you would in other locations with progressive laws. Menus of strains like Amsterdam? Forget it. Choice of edibles like in Colorado? No such luck. It’s pretty much as it would be anywhere it’s illegal – you can’t be picky, you will get what you are given – if it’s weed it’s weed, and you can buy it or not.


This is where Uruguay comes into its own and all the troubles of obtaining the herb are forgiven. As the only illegal bit is the exchange of cash, once you’ve obtained your weed, you’re golden. The shady part of buying is over and you can smoke it anywhere you like. There are no coffee shops or designated chill spaces but really they aren’t necessary because aside from enclosed public spaces (bars, restaurants, offices etc.), you can smoke anywhere you like. Yes, anywhere. With its beach lined coast Uruguay has no shortage of great spots to stop and melt into a stoned haze. Tucked between Brasil and Argentina, the country has a large musical influence from both and weed-infused local drum or music jam nights provide a great atmosphere to get dazed.

Atmosphere & Culture

Smoking freely on the street

Weed is no big deal in Uruguay. It was as novel as it was refreshing to see workers lighting up and sharing a joint with a tea on their break – just as one might see workers on a ciggie break. Noone, besides myself, batted an eyelid. While waiting for a bus at the Montevideo terminal, a middle aged lady came and asked me for a light before smoking her joint nonchalantly in front of, amongst everyone else, security guards. Of course, in terms of where you can and can’t legally smoke, weed and tobacco are the same thing. To me, the scene was peculiar, smoking so casually and carefree in a public space was an alien concept; the dodginess of smoking or carrying weed has been so deeply ingrained in me. I’ve lost count of the amount of sneaky or covert joints I’ve smoked; retreating to rooftops, leaning awkwardly out of bathroom windows, scanning parks for potential sources of trouble. Really though, there should be nothing strange about it; I know too well by now that tobacco and alcohol are far more dangerous than weed, but because of my cultural programming the sight was a novelty. The novelty extended to when I finally had my own weed and was free to smoke without worries. I can’t understate how liberating this was and the novelty didn’t wear off during my month in the country.

The Myth Of Legalising Weed

The notion that everyone will start smoking and the population will become lazy was shattered on my trip to Uruguay. In fact, I was surprised by how few locals smoked during my visit. I guess its like how alcohol is treated in France and other European countries; once the repression and stigma are removed, so is the urge for abuse – it’s no longer a big deal, or ‘cool’ because it’s illegal, it’s just a choice people can make for themselves. I’m not saying there are no potential dangers to smoking weed and that no Uruguayan potheads exist, but it doesn’t seem that criminalizing the drug does any good to minimize them. Legalization bit over, you know my stance.


The situation around obtaining weed makes Uruguay far from the stoner’s utopia. That being said, I can’t understate how nice it was to be smoking out and about without looking over my shoulder or some paranoia creeping in. My buddies and I continually used the phrase ‘sin prisa’ to describe our experience of life in Uruguay. It means ‘without hurry’, because when we were cycling around and stopping off for joints, that’s exactly how we felt; totally relaxed and without haste. There was no sneaking down quiet alleys or rush to ‘burn the evidence’, and to me, that’s exactly how weed should be enjoyed; in the moment and savoured. (And as a medicine for those that desperately need it too of course!) And that is why the experience of smoking in Uruguay was unique, in the best way.