Cannabis legislation in coffee shops in Amsterdam

The legislation surrounding coffeeshops in Amsterdam – a conversation

La Tertulia: a coffee shop in Amsterdam

Alina d’Angelisse is the co-owner of La Tertulia, an organic coffee shop in Amsterdam founded in 1983 that I’ve been working at for a while now. Its name means a gathering of artists in Latin America and the vibe there reflects this – it’s cosy and quirky and beautiful and unlike any other coffee shop, I know.

Alina’s stepfather founded it and she now co-owns it with her mother. Her daughter also works there and it’s currently an all-female team. The business evolved over time along with the changing landscape of the cannabis industry; back in the day everything was unregulated, and bit by bit, everything has become regulated. 

Current challenges for coffee shop owners 

Lately many coffee shops have closed, partly due to the ever-increasing regulations (e.g., distance from schools) and partly because the hassle has become quite impressive. There’s also so much grey area in the legislation that owners are always concerned that they’re going to accidentally be going against regulations when they get controlled.  

Currently coffee shops cannot have more than 500 grams of weed (which includes what your employees have on them), which creates challenges around supply and demand. For busy coffee shops it’s tricky to keep the supply coming in so that they don’t run out during busy periods.

There is an experiment currently underway to provide ten coffee shops in smaller cities with state-grown cannabis. This will mean much less variation in the strains and lower strength

Compared to what is currently sold in coffee shops. In a way this is a step towards legalization but it means a reduction in variation and also the independence and uniqueness of coffee shops.

Coffee shops have been treated differently to cafes during the Corona crisis, only being allowed to reopen several months after other cafes; the reasons for this are not clear. The attitude of the city towards coffee shops remains confusing; the general attitude that they don’t know what to do with them.

Despite what people think, there’s still a big stigma associated with cannabis in the Netherlands, despite coffee shops having been legal there for so long. Public opinion is not overly positive, which means coffee shop owners have to deal with a lot of complex and confusing legislation as well as having their profession regarded as shifty by many people.

CBD vs THC in the Netherlands

Despite being products derived from the same plant, there is almost a total separation of these two cannabis-derived industries; coffee shops can’t sell CBD and shops that sell CBD can’t sell THC. As a result, they have very different customer bases and cater (to some extent) to different market demands.

One effect of this divide has been that it’s helped make CBD more mainstream. The myriad benefits of the plant are becoming more known through the booming CBD industry and as the industry booms and many people see how helpful it can be, it shines a more positive light on the cannabis industry overall.

Alina’s key learnings on being a conscious business owner

The biggest challenge being a coffee shop owner is the stigma around cannabis, which makes it hard for many people to own their involvement with the plant. Alina for example, has struggled to stand in her truth of being a cannabis business owner, and it’s taken a long time for her to make peace with it.

In terms of running her own business, one of the most important things she’s learning is not to spend time and energy looking at what the competition is doing but instead focussing on her vision and what she wants to stand for. Alina wanted to create a coffee shop that would stand out from the others; a place where people like to go and spend time. 

This is such a helpful mindset for all business owners to anchor into, as comparing oneself and one’s business can create difficulties for many reasons. The more constructive thing to do is to explore what success means for you, to focus on what you want and to enjoy what you’re doing.

In the cannabis industry in particular you want to choose your employees and partners well because you need to have a high level of trust. Don’t give up, even when facing opposition – these are great moments of learning if you hang in there! Be dedicated to what you’re doing and don’t get distracted by what people think of you; at the end of the day having your own business is the most amazing opportunity for creative and purposeful living.

// Listen to this episode on the Podcast.

Picture Credit:  Tamara Malaniy  

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