It turns out I was on the right train, and it dropped me off at Central Station. As I burst through the doors I could almost smell White Rhino in the air. With the briefest of stops at the hotel to check in, it was off to the Dampkring Coffeeshop to enhance my perspective. Never to be disappointed, the Dampkring is always welcoming with friendly staff and good service, not to mention one of the best selections of pot and hash in the city. With bags of Kali Mist, Super Silver Haze and an imported Thai in hand, I took a seat, ordered a coffee and indeed had my perspective changed. But more importantly than that, a deeper purpose to my journey was revealed.
As a professional pot smoker it’s easy to be lulled into the false sense that I’m doing all I can to ensure that I’m smoking the best pot. In British Columbia, especially working around Cannabis Culture, there’s no shortage of sweet, sticky buds to sample and savor. From pungent to fruity, frosty hard Indica nugs are virtually everywhere. Some of the best tasting and smoking weed on the planet, no question about it. But Indica only can make Jack a pretty dull boy, because a day without Sativa is, well… shorter.
The Sativa however is an elusive species. Indigenous on the planet in only a narrow band, 15 degrees North and South of the equator. It can’t be grown outdoors in Northern climes and it’s impossible to achieve commercial yields indoors with it. One of the fastest growing plants, it can outgrow the biggest grow room and with the ability to reach heights of 20 feet and more in a single season can easily overpower the most experienced grower. As a result, it is rarely seen in captivity, much less in the wild.
When rare Sativa samples are brought out they are often presented by the grower with the prowess of a big game hunter ? it was he who was able to control this wild beast and show the hunter’s patience, while waiting out the 16 weeks of flowering before he could bag his prey.
However, little of that mattered sitting in the Dampkring as that electric Sativa buzz started to creep up the back of my neck. The Kali Mist kicked the Super Silver Haze into high gear with the second joint. As I worked on rolling the Thai, two things occurred to me: first that I was in Amsterdam, the Safeway of Sativas and it would be the perfect opportunity to go on a little Sativa Safari of my own, and second that I may have spoken the above out loud at the table.
Water hash surprise
Throughout the ages, the success of any hunt comes down to knowing your prey and having the right tools. My prey had already been packaged in little plastic bags and scattered across the city, I knew that. My tools would be rolling papers, lighters and a stack of cash. A nifty vest with a thousand pockets would add storage and confusion. I knew I was going to have to have stamina and try to remain clear to be able to stay ahead of the power of the Sativa. I also knew that any good quest adventure needs a buddy.
Barge, international pot photographer and dedicated activist, is a pot snob with a capital snob. He doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to rating the quality of the bud. Beyond his vast knowledge of growing, curing and smoking, this fact alone was why I wanted him along. And should things get ugly, he has shot more buds than anyone I know. These attributes, combined with his similar love for the Sativas, brought us together one misty morning in front of Katsu.
We had researched hunting grounds in the Dutch territories many times in the past and knew that only a few shops would be likely to yield the trophy specimens. The Katsu was prime Sativa country. They specialize in Haze dominant crosses and fine hashish ? this was good because so did we. But here it wasn’t going to be easy, the Sativas were well camouflaged with names like Northern Lights Special, NL x Haze and Haze x NL, and the natives weren’t talking. Little way to tell what was going to be the best, so to be safe we bought them all. Along with that we grabbed a couple of slivers of the water hash they had entered in the Cup.
The examples here were very frosty, full nugs and beautiful to look at. They had little smell, but this would be from the Northern Lights influence. Unfortunately though, they smoked like sucking on a moped and were chock full of chemical fertilizers. We could barely keep a joint lit, so we stopped trying and turned our attention to the hash. This was an unexpected little treasure after the disappointing buds. A wafer so thin you could see light through it, made from Shiva Skunk.
The making of hash using ice, water and fine mesh bags has been around the cannabis culture for a year or more now, but as usual the Dutch have perfected the method to a very fine degree and are producing some of the best hash I’ve ever smoked. This Katsu piece was extremely pure and bubbled as the lighter touched it in the pipe.
The story was that they had planned to enter it in the previous Cup and had it stored in a freezer since last year. Whatever the case, they took first place with it at this year’s Cup. Truth was, after smoking it, you could have put us in a freezer. The smoke was full flavored, sweet and very stoney. Had the pot been better, we may well still be at Katsu smoking hash, but the call of the hunt beckoned and we replied by buying a bunch more water hash and hit the cobblestones.
We approached the Bush Doctor from downwind and viewed the habitat from across the Rembrantsplien. Sure, we’d heard talk about the Ring of Haze ? a big metal ring strung with bags of Haze crosses ? but we’d been standing in the square for a good six minutes and we’d seen two people go in, but no one had come out. What mysteries lay on the other side of that door? What sick pot had they come up with that they needed to keep it on a ring? We paused a moment to collect our thoughts and check our weapons. A light rain began to fall. It was 11:15 am.
The Bush Doctor was your typical coffeshop, smaller than the sign outside. A few stools and a tiny bar stood between us and our prey. At the mere mention of the Ring of Haze, a young woman produced the prize and held it like a challenge in her fist. Small plastic bags encircled her hand like a wreath and we could see names like Domina Haze and Naplam Haze camouflaged within. A major purchase later and we were upstairs with coffee and juice ready to do battle. The plan was simple. Sample each bud, take pictures and make notes. We hadn’t figured the Haze might have had a plan of her own…..
The Domina Haze was a nice earthy, sweet and a full flavored smoke. The stone hit us right away giving us plenty of energy to move on to the next model. The Power Haze and Devil’s Haze wouldn’t burn very well and didn’t make it past a couple of tokes each, but both were strong and continued to keep us awake. By the time we got through the Napalm Haze we were no longer taking notes, opting instead to forget about it completely. Next came Buddah Haze and Shiva Haze, buffered generously with Katsu water hash and Kali Mist. Photos were abandoned now as we started smoking our way back through the pile. Less for a second opinion as much as the fact that we had lost track of what we had already smoked. Better to be stoned than sorry!
Time really flies when you’re smoking Sativas and several hours had passed when we stumbled down the stairs and back out into the now dark city. A feeling of calm surrounded us as we walked and babbled about the buds and the excellent smoke. Our Sativa senses were on overdrive with the cool night air, Christmas revelers and the beauty of Amsterdam. Completely satisfied by our Hazing, we felt that our mission had been accomplished. We had sought out some of the most powerful sativas in the world, smoked them all (sometimes twice), and walked away to tell about it… or as much as I can remember. But, after a smokefest like we just had, there was only one thing to do; head to the Dampkring for a celebration and smoke some more.
A visit to the hash bar to stock up did not foretell that until then, we had only been messing with a nest of baby Sativas and their pissed off mother was about to return and come looking for us…
Her name was Moonshine Haze and was easily the finest water hash that we’ve ever seen. It bubbled instantly as the flame touched it and suddenly exploded into a thick, fruity lungfull. The stone hit you right in the head and cut through everything we had smoked so far that day. Actually this stuff cut through everything we had ever smoked. A smile filled Barge’s face as he exhaled a huge cloud and exclaimed, “If it don’t bubble, it ain’t worth the trouble,” and a new battle cry was born. We raised our bowls to the universe and gave thanks for bringing us to this place ? although at this point in the day we didn’t have to reach too far.
Another trip to the hash bar, only this time to return empty handed. The Moonshine was sold out. Perhaps we’d been too cocky…too full of ourselves and languished too long thinking that we had captured this elusive gal. It was not to be. She was gone and not likely to return before we had to leave. Like many hunting stories, the Moonshine Haze would be the one that got away. All we knew was that we were pretty sure she’d been there.
Cannabis Cup 2000
If you’ve never been to Amsterdam to experience the coffeshop scene, then a trip to the Cannabis Cup is “highly” recommended. Having presented the Cup for the past 13 years, High Times magazine have the routine pretty much down pat and it is probably the easiest way to get you out into this strange city, see the sights and smoke a buffet of pot and hashish… in less than week!
Anybody with 500 guilders can buy a judge’s pass. This allows you access to all of the venues and includes a passport book containing the Coffee Shops that have entered. Your mission, should you be able to remember it, is to visit all of these Coffee Shops, buy their entry and give the bud and the shop a rating, along with about 2000 other judges. Buses circulate to assist you in your quest. Presumably, at the end of the five days you will have done this and are rewarded with a T-shirt stating your accomplishment to family and friends. Then everyone votes for their favorite and awards are presented.
Besides the Coffee Shop melee, there are two other venues. The Pax Party house is a rented hall with three floors of forums, exhibits and lounging, and is located perfectly enough beside a big police station. All the major seed banks like Sensi, Dutch Passion, Sagarmatha and TH Seeds had booths and budding plants on display. As well there were glass blowers, and makers of vaporizers, pipes, papers, bud grinders and all manner of cannabis related product. Many of the people circulating through the crowd had something to sell or promote. Kinda like being at a cannabis convention.
The forums included one about medicinal marijuana hosted by Hilary Black of the Vancouver Compassion Club Society, while Keith Stroup of NORML led a group concerning legal issues and Soma, a well known Amsterdam grower, held a couple of grow forums.
The other venue was the Melkweg, a big theater with two stages and a lounge in between, where nightly there were DJs and live acts like Patti Smith and Jefferson Starship, and smoking till the wee hours.
This year the theme was Year of the Goddess. All of the celebrity smoking judges, much of the entertainment and featured speakers were women who are active in the cannabis world. Hilary Black from the BC Compassion Club, Karen Watson from the Amsterdam Seed Co and Watermelon, pot comedian and High Times cover-girl all represented Vancouver’s cannabis culture with grace and dignity. Not an easy task given the amount of pot and hash they had to judge. But they all handled it like pros. Congratulations for a job well done.
Congratulations as well to Barge, famed pot photographer, whose extensive knowledge of all things marijuana won him a Cannabis Cup of his own at the Smoker’s Ball put on by the Dampkring and Tweede Kamer coffeeshops.
Kudos as well to friends Kyp and Jeremy from Legends Seeds. They managed a third place finish in the Sativa category with Fast Spear, a sativa they grew outdoors in Switzerland.
So our little corner of the world was well represented at the 13th Annual Cannabis Cup, perhaps indicating that BC’s cannabis culture is a force to be reckoned with yet. Will we be back next year? You bet! Will it be much different? Doubt it. But it doesn’t matter, it’s still a very good excuse to smoke lots and lots of pot!
1_Cannabis Cup: Blueberry, Noon Coffeeshop
2_People’s Cup: Sweet Tooth, Barney’s Breakfast Bar
3_Best Sativa: Kali Mist, Serious Seeds
4_Best Indica: Blueberry, Dutch Passion
5_Best Hash: Water Hash, Katsu
6_Best Coffee Shop: Barney’s Breakfast Bar
7_Best Product: Sweetleaf’s Bud Grinders
8_Best Hemp Product: Hempire Rolling Papers
9_Best Glass Company: African Ash