Cannabis users in the Netherlands, home to a $300 million legal industry in the drug, are seeking to save money amid the highest unemployment rate since 1996 by growing their own marijuana instead of buying rolled joints.
Dutch authorities license two venues to sell the drug: so- called coffee shops, which offer finished cannabis products as well as seating and refreshments for customers, and outlets identified as growing shops, which provide only seeds.
The number of growing shops has risen “substantially,’’ to 318, the department of justice said in a report yesterday, giving no comparable number. Such venues offer as many as 1,400 kinds of marijuana seeds, costing as little as 12.50 euros ($14.93) for 10. At coffee shops such as the Bulldog chain, one joint costs 7 euros. The number of coffee shops fell last year.
“Growing it yourself saves you the trouble of going to the coffee shop, and it’s also cheaper,’’ said Eman Dekker, a 31-year- old employee at Amsterdam’s Interpolm growing shop.
Dutch consumer spending on food, tobacco and alcohol dropped 0.7 percent in April, the most recent month for which figures are available. The country’s economy recorded its biggest contraction in almost 12 years for the first quarter, and the unemployment rate stands at 6.6 percent.
Barney’s Breakfast Bar, a coffee shop in Haarlemmerstraat, Amsterdam, is among venues offering more than cannabis to draw customers. Barney’s presents food as well as marijuana and hash combinations, including Amnesia High marijuana.
Amnesia High won the 2004 Cannabis Cup, for drug of the year. The award is sponsored by the industry’s High Times magazine.
“So far, July seems quieter than it usually is,’’ said Paul Brett, the son of Derry Brett, who owns Barney’s. “We give the business a lot of love, and that helps.’’
The number of coffee shops fell 2.3 percent to 737 shops in 2004, from 754 in 2003, the justice department said. Of the 483 Dutch cities, towns and villages, 105 have coffee shops.
“Without coffee shops there would be no Amsterdam,’’ said Dafydd Williams, a 39-year-old tourist from Wales smoking a joint at Pablow Picasso, a shop in the city’s Jordaan district.
The sprawl of coffee shops and growing shops in central Amsterdam is known locally as the Green Light District.