Amsterdam "magic center of the world"

'Before I came here, I thought the Dam was completely green, with tulips and mills. Joints were smoked everywhere and everyone was high and cheerful. That's what we dreamed of in the evening in our Italian village square, which we called 'Piazza Dam'. (Italian drug tourist, 1985).

The Dutch capital has been a magnet for drug tourists for more half a century now. The iconic image of Amsterdam as a tolerant, friendly place filled with people who are 'high' all day, has its roots in the 1960s. In 1962, Robert Jasper Grootveld (1937-2009), the playful leader of the Provo social movement who organized famous "happenings" at the Spui-square. He dubbed Amsterdam the "magies centrum van de wereld", the magical center of the world. In the video below from 1966, you see him talking about addiction and consumerism. 

After the Summer of Love in 1967,  love-ins were organized in the Vondelpark and psychedelic youth centre Fantasio opened its door in 1968. Many thousands of young people from all over the world visited Amsterdam, which was conveniently located on the Hippie Trail to India. They slept in youth hostels or near the war monument at Dam Square.

After lounging at Dam Square was forbidden in 1970 the hippies moved to the Vondelpark. Until 1974, sleeping rough in this park was tolerated and facilitated by the local city council.

However, this liberal climate did not come about without a fight. In the 1950s and early 1960s the first generation of Dutch cannabis users was regularly fined or put in jail, even for possession of a couple of joints. Early adopters of the cannabis culture were jazz musicians, sailors, American soldiers based in Germany and on leave in Amsterdam, and hipsters inspired by French existentialism and American beat generation. They met in jazz clubs like Casablanca at the Zeedijk and the Cotton Club at the Nieuwmarkt. Their common enemy was the Amsterdam prosecutor Baron von Dedem, who had visited the United States and was taught how to fight drugs by American drug czar Harry Anslinger.

But the Amsterdam police and justice system could not cope with the rapidly rising number of cannabis users in the late 1960s. Also, both addiction experts, politicians, and countercultural leaders protested against criminalizing young people for using a relatively harmless drug such as cannabis. In the early 1970s, tourist staying in the park could easily visit nearby clubs like Paradiso and the Melkweg. The use of cannabis was effectively tolerated and hash and weed could be bought in the first Amsterdam coffee shop Mellow Yellow, or from the Paradiso house dealer.