Cannabis Travel: Amsterdam vs. Denver
24 Oct 2019
Where is the best place in the world to travel for cannabis? There used to be an easy answer to this question. Amsterdam. But the world is changing. Cannabis legalization is growing, and has greatly widened the scope for potential canna-travel destinations. This is a topic we’re greatly interested in here at Weedful. We’re taking our time to meticulously assemble a series of travel guides that search out the best shops and products that each market has to offer. It’s fun work, don’t get me wrong, but we take it very seriously. Our first book is the Connoisseur Guide: Amsterdam Coffeeshops, which should be followed soon by our Colorado guide. Our team has a lot of experience in both places (our members live in both), so we felt we were in a good spot to compare them. So, how about it? Is Amsterdam still the best travel destination for cannabis enthusiasts? How does it compare to Denver? Let’s see.
When it comes to enjoying cannabis in a social setting, Amsterdam is an epic place to visit. A majority of the city’s 150+ coffeeshops have lounges for on-site cannabis consumption. Typical for Amsterdam, most shops are modest in size, though many have a super inviting atmosphere, are artsy, comfortable, and chill. You simply walk in, make a cannabis purchase, then go find a seat, where you are free to have a smoke, listen to music, and meet new people. And aside from the coffeeshops, there are many other cafes and bars that allow cannabis consumption. The scene here has a unique vibe that is hard to put into words. I’d just say that some of the coolest places on earth for a cannabis consumer to hang out are in Amsterdam. Denver is nothing like it in this regard. There are a few legal vaping lounges, and more consumption lounges are expected to open soon. However, the culture here has a LONG way to go to catch up to Amsterdam. Time will tell if it actually can. And outside these lounges, it remains illegal to consume cannabis in public. For now, Amsterdam is the hands-down winner.
Quality: Amsterdam has long been an epicenter of cannabis genetics. Many of the hot strains in the USA right now have roots here. The cultivation scene is just as strong as ever, too. You can always find something exceptional in Amsterdam if you look. However, cultivators in the USA work out in the open. Innovation is rapid, and the selection vast. What you find in the average Denver dispensary is probably a little better than the average random coffeeshop, simply because it is easier for them to secure supply and be selective. The top shelf productn here, at times, also edges out Amsterdam. Plus, it is far more common to find top-shelf product packed in nitrogen gas for long-term freshness. With cultivation still illegal in Amsterdam, there are far fewer options for the coffee shops. For many, consistent high-quality supply can be a big challenge.
Testing: Another thing; all product is lab tested in Denver. Everything is labeled for THC and CBD percentage, and growers are banned from using certain dangerous pesticides. The government does its own inspections, and we’ve even had state-wide recalls when something like mold or a banned pesticide was discovered. A few coffeeshops do lab test in Amsterdam. The Siberie and Relax shops come to mind… But generally, no. These are exceptions. And when was the last time you heard of a weed recall in Amsterdam?
Price: When it comes to pricing, the cost of flower has dropped a lot in Denver’s legal market in recent years. You can typically find a quality ounce (28.5g) for $100-200 USD. In contrast, the average cost only seems to go up year after year in Amsterdam. Sometimes, the top shelf options can exceed $20 for a single gram!
Winner: Nod for flower goes to Denver. Strain shoppers should plan a trip here for the greater selection, lower prices, and at times, better top-shelf product, though I’d never say Denver has a monopoly on quality.
Selection: This category has one of the clearest divides. In Denver, we can extract THC, cannabinoids, terpenes etc. from cannabis to our hearts content. Developers are constantly looking for new ways to impress too. How about “live resin” extracted from just-cut frozen plants… THC “diamonds” in a pungent terpene sauce… heck, pure THC crystals? We’ve got it all. The flavors, potency, and variety here are mind-boggling. In contrast, most of the extraction methods we use in Colorado are considered illegal in the Netherlands. Anything that removes virtually all plant matter is considered hash oil, a “hard drug”. You mainly find traditional screen sieved and ice hash (Nederhasj) here. Don’t get me wrong. The quality can be great. But the selection is never what you will find at even a below-average Colorado dispensary.
Potency: The potency of hash in Amsterdam usually ranges from 20-40% THC, depending on the type, with an occasional higher-potency rosin. In Denver, our waxes, shatters, crumbles, live resins, etc. usually exceed 70% THC, with many products breaking the 90% mark. If you think ice hash is strong, wait until you try some of this stuff!
Winner: Denver wins this round for variety, quality, and potency, unless you specifically prefer old-school pressed hash from Morocco or Lebanon. We have no imports here, and most shops don’t even carry traditional sieved hash. If that’s the case, definitely hit Amsterdam.
Variety: In Colorado, we have the advantage of being able to use THC distillate to make edibles. This high potency concentrated oil is practically tasteless, which means we can make tasty edibles out of almost everything… gummies, candies, chocolates, cookies, even infused sodas and (non-alcoholic) beer. Hiding cannabis, hash, or canna-butter in most foods is generally more difficult. Amsterdam is mostly limited to cake products like brownies and muffins, which are usually most palatable.
Dose: In Denver, the law allows for no more than 10mg of THC per serving. This isn’t really that much, but it makes edibles more accessible to canna-novices. Experienced users usually take a pass on the canna-foods here, finding the recreational products to be too weak. Amsterdam shops are not limited to dose like our dispensaries. You can find 100mg of THC or more in some cakes. Paradox, for example, makes a pound cake with a full gram of cannabis. You’ll never find that here in a recreational dispensary.
Craft Edibles: Most edibles have a “mass-manufactured feel” in Denver. It’s like buying a packaged cake at a convenience store. To be fair, most Amsterdam coffeeshops do fall short when it comes to edibles. There is a general lack of variety here, and the laws don’t help. Even so, most are homemade by the shops, often quite delicious, and there are even some amazing standouts. How about the line of craft “spacetries” by Amsterdam Genetics, which were designed by a Michelin star chef? I can’t think of anything this decadent in Denver right now.
Winner: This category is a toss up. If you want variety and are willing to sacrifice dose, Denver wins. If you want something stronger, you need a medical card. Go to Amsterdam.
Unless you plan to spend all of your waking time buying and consuming cannabis, you are going to want to do sometime else on your trip. This means traveling about. I’ll leave it up to the reader to research and decide if the city vibe of Denver, or the wildlife, skiing, and other outdoor activities of the neighboring Rocky Mountains are preferable to Amsterdam, a city of amazing history and stunning beauty. I will say that when it comes to getting around though, Amsterdam is much more accessible. You can spend your whole trip just walking around the city center, hitting coffeeshops, cafés, and boutique shops, never feeling like you were isolated or missed out. And a bike is all you need to get pretty much anywhere else. In Colorado, there is plenty to do, but it is definitely a place for a car. Aside from downtown Denver, you really can’t walk from place to place, and our public transportation is something of a joke compared to Amsterdam’s plethora of tram, bus, and train lines.
Winner: For ease of “stoned” travel and not needing to drive, Amsterdam is much better.
The winner of this showdown depends on what you are looking for. If the purpose of your trip is to locate the best weed or concentrates you’ve ever had in your life, book Denver. The selection here is incredible, and we have far more permissive laws pertaining to the type of products that are made. If you really dial in to the market here and find the true craft growers/producers, you are likely to come across some weed strains or concentrates that are seriously worth writing home about. HOWEVER, if you want to experience what a truly open city for cannabis is like when it comes to consumption and social interaction, you MUST plan a trip to Amsterdam. Things may be changing in Denver, but it is yet nothing like the same magical canna-friendly social environment of Amsterdam.
Author: William Llewellyn
Sauce photograph by Juanmonino at Getty Images/iStockphoto.
If you are interested in Amsterdam, pick up our 368 page Hardcover book CONNOISSEUR GUIDE: AMSTERDAM COFFEESHOPS. It is a MUST-HAVE for any serious visitor to the Amsterdam scene, it is the first book ever to profile all 168 coffeeshops in the city, with vivid full-color pictures, detailed descriptions, amenities, and locals/regulars recommendations for the "best of" shops in a variety of categories.
Get your copy at one of these fine shops in Amsterdam!
Siberie • De Republiek • Het Ballonnetje • Amsterdam Genetics Info Centre • De Supermarkt • LoFt • Funky Munkey • The Border
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