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13 Nov 2013 16:00
Lately it seems that anyone with a tour to promote who comes within spitting distance of Schiphol airport is encouraged by their PR manager to light a joint. (AFP)
When Miley Cyrus sparked up a "suspicious cigarette" on stage at Amsterdam's Ziggo Dome during the TV European Music awards, it was a move that both surprised precisely no one, but made sure that her acceptance speech had to be excised from the US broadcast.
As a resident of the Netherlands' capital, such stoned celeb dispatches – think Lady Gaga inhaling on stage inhaling on stage in September 2012 at the same arena, Rihanna tweeting pictures of herself apparently enjoying biftas the size of the Hubble Space Telescope, and Chris Brown following suit – are a personal bête noir.
Lately it seems that anyone with a tour to promote who comes within spitting distance of Schiphol airport is encouraged by their PR manager to make directly for the nearest cafe and tweet endless grainy, half-lit images of themselves toking from a massive blunt preferably modelling a loose-knit hat inspired by the Jamaican flag and proclaiming: "Amsterdam is da best lolz #yolo". It must stop immediately.
And this is why.
First of all, it's as nakedly attention-seeking as a Kardashian belfie (selfie of your butt, in case you were wondering), both for the celebs and for the coffee shops who – forbidden from promoting themselves through the traditional channels – indulge them with herbal freebies galore.
What's more, if you are accepting an award at the MTV awards, you are essentially at work and should behave accordingly. And believe me, there's nothing more tedious than a stoned colleague. When I edited Time Out Amsterdam magazine, reliable coffee shop reviewers were extremely hard to find.
As Cher Horowitz, protagonist of the film Clueless, and my personal go-to in matters of taste and decency, puts it while initiating her younger charge into the social mores of Beverly Hills: "It is one thing to spark up a doobie and get laced at parties. It is quite another to be fried all day". If I've paid 60-plus quid plus car rental to see Rihanna gyrate her way down a moving walkway in Arnhem, I'd rather she showed up in a timely manner, and didn't give the impression she was pie-eyed throughout her rendition of Diamonds.
I am no clean-living prude. Weed-dispensing coffee shops in Amsterdam – like off-licences in the UK and meth labs in Albuquerque – can be pillars of the community. Many a time have I kicked back in my friendly neighbourhood drug den after a punishing day at the word processor.
I hate to say it, but spending lost hours holed up in a red-light district flophouse – and broadcasting one's presence there – is the surest way to mark oneself out as a daft tourist, blind to the myriad cultural treasures that Amsterdam has to offer, which includes everything from the recently reopened Rijksmuseum to a gallery devoted to the artistic veneration of cats.
The latest generation of celebrities seem to have ignored the memo that the occasional cheeky spliff is a fun end-of-day indulgence, whereas spending large portions of the day out of your tree is the equivalent of standing in the middle of a cycle lane, damp map flapping in the drizzle, whilst belching out a request for directions to the Hard Rock Cafe.
We all need a release, and there is doubtless a valid case to be made for ending the futile worldwide war on drugs and the myriad benefits of decriminalisation. But Amsterdam doesn't necessarily have all of the answers. Over-the-counter sales to customers are "tolerated", whereas the wholesale supply to the coffee shops is almost completely unregulated. Dutch law perpetuates the dumb fantasy that vast supplies of ganja miraculously arrive in the storeroom overnight – meaning mom-and-pop coffee shop owners have to consort with big-time criminals in order to keep going. One thing's for sure, though: if legalisation is the way ahead, we need more convincing ambassadors. Or at least ones that can keep their tongues in their mouths. – © Guardian News and Media 2013
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