Part 1: Greenland

{Note: The one-man expedition to The Netherlands narrated here took place in May of 2011. Eight separate posts have been revisited and combined into a multipart series. The compilation was posted on October 14, 2012 — which explains the date-stamp.}

Which green land is the grass greener in?

As the 767 carrying your faithful correspondent streaks across Greenland’s vast, desolate expanse, I’m wondering if the vibrant, decadent scene that dazzled me and everybody else back in the 70’s is still going strong under the heel of the cannabis-averse Christian Democratic Party — or if it’s waning like once-mighty glaciers under global warming.

Cannabis commerce is definitely on the rise in the US. There’s no shortage of greenery on the continent I just left. So, is the “grass” [“grass” has been slang for marijuana since the Jazz Age] still greener in The Netherlands— as it has been for the past forty years — or is the surging US ready to usurp the crown?

The cannabis gods have been whisked me right out of North America to find out!

I’ve also heard that The Netherlands is big on Green Thinking. That’s got the makings of a nice subtheme to spice up the series … and food for thought between Iceland and Ireland.

Partners in crime

The Netherlands [NL] and the United States [US], combatants in this friendly competition, cooperate perfectly well in several joint ventures everyone’s familiar with: NATO [the North Atlantic Treaty Organization] and “The Coalition of the Willing,” aka “Coalition Forces” — the ruthless marauders brave boys who “fight our country’s battles, in the air on land and sea.”

Dehydrated Dutch troops shake down this Afghani elder in a desperate last ditch effort to locate the clan’s secret Heineken stash.

The tiny waterlogged nation, which competes spectacularly on the football field (although it has an unfortunate tendency to come out as flat as its topography on the battlefield), has been a dependable ally, dutifully sacrificing token amounts of troops [25 dead and 125 wounded in Afghanistan since 2006, according to Wikipedia] in US-led invasions of overmatched countries; sorry, I meant “fighting terrorism everywhere freedom is threatened.”

That “acceptable level of human loss” pays the premium on an insurance policy. It’s one the NL can’t afford to be without: in the event of WWIII or similar European hostilities, The Big Dog will protect them — a sensible investment when you’re sandwiched between Germany and France.

Cannabis tourism

Something else connects the US and the NL, and it’s not another “peacekeeping” acronym — it’s a peace-causing organism.

Organism: an individual form of life, such as a plant, animal, bacterium, protist, or fungus; a body made up of organs, organelles, or other parts that work together to carry on the various processes of life.

The US, lately, via MMJ, and the NL, historically, with its notorious koffieshops, are more tolerant of that peace-causing organism than most nations — the US’s unreal tendency to arrest 800,000 pot “offenders” a year notwithstanding.

Ever since word began getting out back in the hippy days that it was a cannabis oasis, the NL has enjoyed a steady parade of cannabis tourists who leapt at the chance to take advantage of its relatively permissive attitude (try being a cannabis tourist in Tokyo, for comparison’s sake). Many hailed from the US.

Invariably, returning Americans told their friends about these wild Amsterdam clubs where you could buy incredible pot on site, see and listen to some of the best bands in Europe, dance, watch art movies while you toked hashish out of a chillum, and gobble down mouthwatering munchies like pannekaken mit apples. As a result, US stoners developed something of an inferiority complex, inclined to believe that things were, are, and would always continue to be more progressive “over there.”

That’s understandable: after all, the NL not only “invented” cannabis tourism, it presently holds the distinction of leading Planet Earth in every major cannabis tourism category, including:

  • Most cannabis tourists per year
  • Most money spent per capita by cannabis tourists per visit and per year
  • Most beer and cannabis consumed in one hour by English and German tourists combined
  • Most likelihood cannabis tourists will “double dip,” taking in the sights, sounds, and scents of the Red Light District, too, as the entire area is one big pupu platter spilling over with sordid delights.

These are just a few of the reasons why the NL is a clear favorite to remain “the greenest of them all.” It certainly had things it’s way from the psychedelic era to around 2009 AD, when, after years of beating their collective heads against the wall, US activists eked out a few freedoms here and there … offering a beacon of hope for The Rest of the World.

The US enters the fray

The US, even though it hasn’t come around to cannabis tourism, could still play the role of the iceberg in this Titanic tussle.

In “The New World,” the medical marijuana craze is in its heyday. In fact, it’s a bit of a sensation. For those of you reading this in, say New Guinea, in all probability your native tongue has a word for marijuana … which doesn’t include an accompanying adjective.

Unfortunately, the scope of this series doesn’t include assessing whether or not the grass is actually greener in New Guinea . . . but there’s always a tomorrow.

That raises the rudimentary question, “just what exactly is medical marijuana?”

  • Is there a molecular difference between the lofty-sounding “medical marijuana” and plain old “marijuana?” Er, no, there is not.
  • Is medical marijuana grown to a higher standard, and, if so, just what is that standard? No, it’s not. There is no standard. Ditchweed can be sold as medical marijuana, though it isn’t very often.
  • Can the THC molecules in medical marijuana be tweaked to target specific ills? Some clumsy attempts to do just that have been already made, but research is still in the baby steps phase [in the US; other countries like Israel and England have been more progressive].

Then what the heck is medical marijuana? Basically, it’s marijuana with all the fun taken out of it.

“I’m not a stoner, I’m a patient” sums up the mindset. OK, then. Play acting is involved, as stoners must converse in Patientese if they want to be served at medical marijuana dispensaries. In turn, dispensary personnel must play at being doctors and pharmacists, diagnosing motor-neuron diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and prescribing Sour Diesel to reverse the pesky condition, which, according to folklore, would enable Steven Hawking to shed his wheelchair and run the New York City Marathon in under three hours.

Please note that I didn’t say medical marijuana made any sense, I said it’s made a bit of a sensation — proving it’s possible to be a sensation without the sense. Certainly the sentence above reads better than “lately, in the US, medical marijuana’s made a bit of an ation.” Yet it’s a bit of an ation in a very big nation not previously inclined to tolerate cannabis commerce on any level — much less retail sales on Main Street, USA. So that’s saying something.

That’s what The Policeman of the World the land of the free and the home of the brave has going for it.

Additionally:

  • In 2010, some Americans in California and Colorado suddenly found themselves surrounded by thirty dispensaries they could walk to which sprang up in less than six months time. I know. I’m one of them. That can be a life-changing event. I know that, too — it certainly altered my life. One day I was Colorado’s leading Prius and other less well-known-but-equally-frugal-hybrids salesman, and the next day I threw away my Toyota sales plaques and took up the pen to write about all things cannabis — kinda like how Charles Dickens quit haunting high society balls to write about all things orphanage. Well, something like that …
  • The City of Oakland, California green-lighted giant industrial grows to raise desperately needed cannatax. Playing spoilsport, the US Attorneys nixed that, so it didn’t happen — but the City of Oakland sure showed some “want-to.”
  • The State of Colorado has been downright permissive — unlike, say, its right-wing neighbor to the north, Wyoming, or the Mormonic entity due west, Utah —  and a fair amount of cannabis commerce takes place there “legally.” It’s like a “test site” without the plutonium.
  • Weirdly, in the eyes of many powers-that-be, cannabis rates right up there with plutonium as the planet’s most dangerous substance. In the US, at least sixteen out of fifty states have gotten past that stigma and voted in quasi-legalization. In other words, inroads have been made (whether or not Cannabis Commerce is dead-set against state-by-state legalization).

There ya go, a few reasons pundits give the US a puncher’s chance to take the championship belt. That said, it was a lot easier making a case for The Netherlands! I’m sure glad I’m heading there. But wait … as we draw closer to “the continent” … I’m getting a premonition that ominous and foreboding forces lay ahead.

The dark cloud hanging over the NL

There’s a dark cloud forming over the North Sea. A storm cloud, and it appears to be closing in on the land of dikes and windmills. An omen of doom, perhaps?

Affirmative.

Rumors abound that powerful forces in the ascendant Christian Democrat party will pull the plug on the ongoing potfest, pronto. And the first cut will be cannabis tourism.

Crazily enough, it could happen while I’m there!

I could be the last cannabis tourist in The Netherlands!

From my perspective, that would be an interesting twist, to say the least. But the nearby passengers who filled me in seem resigned that the foul deed is already fait accompli.

Expectations real and imagined

Ignoring the cloud for the time being, it doesn’t take Nostradamus to figure out that all of the NL is greener than, say, Waco, Texas — but is it greener than Denver, Colorado, former cowtown, home of the NFL Broncos, that’s been kicking up its hooves, turning the sun-drenched prairielands into one big cannabis patch?

Rest assuured that our one-man expedition — equipped for service with a Zoom Q3HD handheld video recorder and a second-hand Panasonic DSLR camera — will scour the countryside in search of answers.

While I’m supposed to remain open-minded and impartial, surely I’ll be landing in a place where the grass is greener, policies are wiser, and trade in eurobuds is brisker … right?

Is it too much to expect a sane, rational, and logical European community, one whose ruthless efficiency exposes every deficiency in Colorado’s muddled medical marijuana model?

Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll know soon enough.

Might as well enjoy this luminous photo of a modern-day Bounty replica; it now rests in Davy Jones’s locker, a capsized casualty of Superstorm Sandy.

You’re hereby invited to stow away with us, as Cannabis Commerce goes international!

Will this historical exploration rank right up there with The Bounty’s voyage to Tahiti, Columbus’ discovery of The New World, and Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe?

In my admittedly distorted perspective, it already does.

Your take may vary.

At the very least, we’ll apply the jam to a slice of life we seldom taste.

Bring on the queer eurobeats!

[click Play on the video below to hear some]