Saturday, July 30, 2005

A 35 Euro Lock

July 28 - Rotterdam, Holland
You lock your bike outside the Coffeeshop and go in. They don’t sell much coffee here and they can’t sell any beer because you’re in Holland and “Coffeeshop” is just a euphemism for the place you buy marijuana.

“We don’t really stay inside the Coffeeshop,” Amber explained the other day. “That’s for the tourists. We just buy something and bring it home.”

When you walk in there is a guy standing behind a glass partition. There are priced samples taped to the glass. Dutch is spoken, 10 euros are exchanged for a zip lock bag and you go outside to unlock your bike and ride home.

It occurred to me that there’s a fundamental difference between marijuana in countries where it’s legal and ones where it’s illegal. American anti-drug groups argue that the danger of marijuana is that it leads to more dangerous drugs, and that’s probably true. It’s a short step from your dealer providing a bag of something green to a bag of something white. But in the Netherlands the mechanics of buying hard drugs are entirely different than buying pot. You go to the store to buy your weed; you go someplace poorly lit to buy your coke or ecstasy.

Marijuana is less of a gateway to the hard stuff when you don’t have to develop a habit of illegal drug purchasing to get it.

But just as you start to think that legalizing marijuana might help solve the drug problem you’re back at the apartment re-locking the bikes. They aren’t very nice bikes but the locks are essential.

“My bike cost 10 euros,” Amber explains. “And the lock was 35 euros.”

“Do you really need such a big lock? Who’s going to steal your bike?”

“Well the junkies, of course.”

Somehow plenty of people found their way out of the Coffeeshop and into some poorly lit place. It’s hard to say which system is better, but easy to see that lots of people do lots of drugs regardless.


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