Rond de asbak met Henk de Vries

Forces columnist James Leavey deelde een asbak met Henk de Vries, oprichter en eigenaar van de Amsterdamse coffeeshop-keten The Bulldog Café.

Henk startte in 1975 zijn eerste coffeeshop in Amsterdam onder het motto: We break the rules, to create the rules. 

JL: What was it that prompted the Dutch government’s tacit acceptance of cannabis cafes, such as yours?

HDV: It was a fairly big fight.  In the first 2-3 years we had 30-40 police coming in to the cafe, 5-6 times a day. And they busted me, baby, a hundred times.  And they busted my customers for a couple of hundred times. And every time when the customers went out, I went on the door and told them that every piece of cannabis that the police had busted them for, and taken away from them, I would replace.  So the customers wanted to smoke a joint and they’d say, the same as me, ‘What are we doing wrong?  We’re only smoking a joint.’  At the time, the police would take away all the cannabis they found and put my customers in jail for a day, or half a day.  Later on, it was just for a couple of hours.  But mainly, they took away the cannabis.

JL: When did they start leaving you alone?

HDV: We created a kind of slogan, ‘We break the rules, to create the rules’. That gave us the power, and the reason why we have been going on with it. Now, the cannabis cafes are ignored.  They are not legal, yet.  It’s a ‘blind eye’ policy.  They give you the opportunity to sell your hash, but they bring it down and down and down with a lot of rules.  And these rules are the strongest you will find in any kind of Dutch business – they’re not the normal rules a business can run with. For example, we are only allowed to sell five grams of cannabis per person, per day. That person has to be 18 years, or older.  Each ‘coffee shop’ is only allowed to keep a total of 500 grams in stock.  And we are not allowed to bring 500 grams to our shop.  That means that I need a person who can carry only five grams at a time to my shop, where I can only sell 5 grams, at a time, to a customer. That’s if you do it by the book. I can only keep 500 grams of hash in my shop, at any one time, but how I should get it there, nobody knows.

Sharing an ashtray with Henk de Vries

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