On the edge of the Red Light District in Amsterdam, the Cannabis College is open for business on a sunny, windy October day.
But where are the tourists?
In the College’s famous basement garden, where plants four feet in diameter grow organically, and the gardentender wages war with battalions of spider mites, silence rules.
The College is usually packed with acolytes year round, but now, as with the rest of Amsterdam, the place is like a ghost town.
“It’s been like this ever since the terrorist attacks,” says a College professor. “I guess we never realized how much we relied on American tourists.”
In coffee shops and headshops the story is the same: the Taliban has responded to US-British bombing by threatening to hijack planes and wreak other havoc across the world, and the tens of thousands of cannatourists who fuel much of the Dutch economy are scared to fly.
Some coffee shop owners worry that the economic slowdown caused by the terror scare will push them out of business. More and more Amsterdam coffee shops were already going out of business in some areas due to local policies, and poor product. Now, even the best shops are seeing their revnues drop, laying off staff, and buying less product.
Word on the street is that the High Times Cannabis Cup might be canceled this year due to hundreds of cancelations from people who had booked places before the September 11th attack. The New York and Holland organizers of the Cup are telling people publicly that the event will go on as planned, trying as hard to stop the loss of revenues that comes from cancelations. But people in the know report that Cup represetatives are privately admitting that this year’s Cup probably won’t happen, and that High Times was already looking for a way to transfer control of the event to other organizers in a kind of franchise operation.
In Haarlem, a lovely Dutch heritage town just outside of Amsterdam, the marijuana business is still strong and is less affected by a drop in cannatourism. Many of the town’s 16 shops cater mainly to locals. Haarlem in general depends less on tourism than Amsterdam, and is surrounded by wealthy neighborhoods full of people who can sustain the local economy themselves.
Coffee shop owner Nol Van Schaik says that business in his shops has not decreased. He is so enthusiastic about the long-term prospects for the marijuana industry that he recently helped open a coffee shop in Stockport, England- the first Dutch-style European coffee shop outside of Holland. Van Schaik is also planning to reconfigure his three Haarlem shops at the start of next year.
“We will have Willie Wortel Indica, Willie Wortel Sinsemilla and Willie Wortel Sativa as the names for our shops,” he said. “Each shop will focus on a specialty weed menu that highlights the best of each strain. I’m procuring rare varieties like pure Jamaican Lamb’s Bread and Durban Poison, Hazes, superb hashes made from sativa or indica plants, and other varieties. We want to educate consumers about the different taste and psychoactive effects you get from indica versus sativa, and we also want them to understand what are the best ways to get high for each individual person.”
Van Schaik says he hopes that people booked to visit Holland during the Cannabis Cup will make the journey to Haarlem. If the Cannabis Cup doesn’t happen, Van Schaik and other Haarlem coffee shop owners are ready to fill the void.
Van Schaik, for example, recently procured a 64-hose world record-holding hookah pipe that burns two ounces per bowl and delivers life-changing hits. He will be offering demonstrations of the pipe during a Harvest Party and other activities that take place during Cup week.
“I have no comment on the Cannabis Cup itself or whether it happens or not,” Van Schaik said, “but we want Americans and everybody else to come to Holland and party with us, and we will be creating ways for people to enjoy themselves over here no matter what happens with the High Times event. The best way to fight terrorism is to get high, have fun and live life to the fullest. Haarlem has museums, great food, a national park, friendly people, clean canals, a beach and great cannabis. If you get on a plane or boat and visit us, we will make sure you have a great time in Holland.”
Information about Haarlem is available at www.wwwshop.nl