Amsterdam in Vancouver

The last time I sat with the Sativa Sisters, Sita Windheim and Karen Watson, at their Amsterdam Caf? in Vancouver, Canada, there was a poignant sense of sadness in the air along with pot smoke.
They were preparing to close the caf? with an October 1999 farewell party. I tried to take it all in, knowing I would never see it again: the gorgeous pair of intelligent, courageous women whose Gastown caf? was classy, artistic, safe and fun, their lively employees, the trippy paintings on walls and ceiling, the great food and music, the international crowd of tourists and Vancouverites smoking herb in peace.

“I really resent the police and those who gave them the orders to harass us,” Watson said, referring to three police raids that provoked a business license review and criminal charges against the women. “I know for a fact that this place is a wonderful service to the community. Everyone is happy here. This is something I have given my life to. Why do they want to hurt us?”

The next time I saw Sita and Karen, sitting at their Amsterdam Seed Company of Canada (ASCC) booth at the Cannabis Cup, they were all smiles.

“We miss the caf?, and we are still fighting the seed sales charges,” said Windheim as she watched a Cuppie nearly drop from a hit of Romulan, the ASCC’s official Cannabis Cup entry.

“But Karen and I always look forward, and we are proud to be the first Canadian seed company to sponsor and enter the Cup. It’s an honor for us to be here. We love it!”

And Amsterdam loved them.

“These ladies have brought some new life to this town,” commented Ben Dronkers, the Sensi Seeds legend whose approving words mean the world to any cannabis breeder. “To have the Canadian genetics come in here, in the form of their very special Romulan, is good for the Cup and smokers everywhere.”

Watson said it wasn’t easy for a Canadian-based seed company to enter the Cannabis Cup.

“They told us we had to grow out some plants in Holland, which we did at great expense,” she explained. “We also provided 16 samples of five grams each for the celebrity judges. Our understanding is that they didn’t know what they were smoking ? it was a blind competition. We don’t know how we placed, because only the top three winners were announced, but people at our booth said Romulan was a grippingly strong Indica, sweet-tasting, and a lovely high. This is a pure Canadian strain from BC, and it’s different than most of what they have smoked here before. It gave them a new kind of experience.”

ASCC is a retailer and wholesaler of Dutch and North American seeds, and as such could be considered as a competitor to the Holland companies that have traditionally dominated the Cup.

“We worried about that at first,” admitted Windheim, “but their reaction was gracious and inclusive. There are even some Dutch companies that plan to carry our North American varieties in Holland.”

Watson said being at the Cup has been more than just a business trip. It has also been trippy.

“Some guy from the International Hemp Association floored me with this hash that bubbled,” she said. “It was even better than our Romulan. And one evening, I had the pleasure to find myself out at dinner with Ben Dronkers, Steve Hager, Laurence Cherniak, and Ben’s son Allan. It was fascinating being with people who have years of experience and stories to share.”

Windheim and Watson have taken their own experiences and stories and are sharing them with cannabis tourists eager to experience the BC budworld in Vancouver. European, Asian and American Cuppers snatched up ASCC’s pamphlets advertising the “Sativa Sisters’ Kind Sanctuary,” which Karen and Sita have created as a vacation haven for adventurous smokers.

“People who want to sleep well, eat well, smoke well and enjoy the amazing cultural, agricultural, and natural beauty of Vancouver love our bed and breakfast,” Windheim said. “Why spend your money for lodging at a regular old hotel when you can stay with people who know how to help you enjoy the best that our special part of the world has to offer?”

As I watched the ladies entertain another busload of Cupheads, I reflected on their resiliency and creativity. After all, they are still facing serious fines back home, punishment for something they know is not a crime.

“Some people say we are lucky, but we made our luck,” Watson said. “We have met great people here, and have tried to do what was right for the people back home. Yes, the cannabis business has some danger, and sometimes I’m scared, but this is me ? this is what I love. I am making a difference, and I’ve learned that as long as you are smart, honest and up front you will gather to you good vibes in this business.”

? The Amsterdam Cafe: