The first time I went to Amsterdam was in February of 1993. I had recently become the National Director of NORML.org, but I had previously met a number of Dutch officials and activists at the original Drug Policy Foundation (predecessor of the Drug Policy Alliance) conferences in the late 1980s.
Incredibly, lying about the Dutch was a basic part of the U.S. prohibitionist party line, so I decided that it would be useful to be able to to say, “I have just returned from Amsterdam and…”
After all, what the Dutch were doing was supposed to be impossible and disastrous and “double plus ungood.”
My first stop was a little coffeeshop across from my hotel. As I went in, I nervously looked both ways with the paranoia of a citizen of the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” (Pause for tears and laughter).
Later, I had an appointment (arranged by my Dutch friends) with the head of the “Vice squad” of the Amsterdam police. He made clear that there were seldom any problems at the coffeeshops, but lots of calls for the police at Amsterdam’s numerous (over 1,100) bars.