This past weekend, Dutch citizens lined up around the block for their last chance to buy weed before the city began enforcing its coronavirus lockdown.
On Sunday, Bruno Bruins, the Dutch Health Minister announced that “all restaurants and bars are closing from 6pm today, as well as sports clubs, saunas, sex clubs, and coffee shops (cannabis cafes),” PhilStar Global reports. The death toll from COVID-19 has climbed to 20 in the Netherlands, and another 1,135 people have been diagnosed with the illness.
Bruins explains that the sudden decision is partly an attempt to stop what he called Belgian “cafe tourism.” Belgium ordered its bars and restaurants to close last week, and health officials warned Belgian citizens not to travel to nearby European countries. Regardless of the warning, droves of Belgians reportedly flooded across the border this past weekend to enjoy themselves at Dutch bars and coffee shops.
Upon hearing the news of the lockdown, thousands of people rushed to their nearest cafe to stock up on weed, creating long lines that stretched across several city blocks.
— Kamran Ullah (@KamranUllah) March 15, 2020
“For maybe for the next two months we’re not able to get some weed so it should be nice to at least have some in the house,” said Jonathan, a Dutch weed shopper waiting outside The Point coffee shop in The Hague, to AFP. “My friend called me like five minutes ago, he saw the press conference — good friend.”
“I wouldn’t mind having a little bit of weed — keep it easy while we’re at home for so long. It might be a long time in quarantine,” said Hannah, an Irish woman who was also waiting in line for weed. “I was literally just watching the press conference with my flatmate and then I just went downstairs and suddenly there’s this queue of like 30 people, and all these cars arriving as well now.”
Cannabis is still technically illegal in the Netherlands, but in 1976, the Dutch government decriminalized the possession of five grams (0.18 ounces) or less. The government also tolerates the sale of weed in a number of “coffee shops” across the country. These coffee shops have drawn millions of pot tourists to Amsterdam over the years, but those days may be numbered. Amsterdam’s government has proposed banning all tourists from buying weed at cannabis cafes, and is even considering moving its infamous red light district out of the city.
The rush to stock up on weed before the quarantine is not unique to the Netherlands. Los Angeles weed shops and delivery services are reporting a massive boost in sales, as are legal weed shops in other adult-use states.