The People You Meet in Amsterdam Coffeeshops #7: Mark

The People You Meet in Amsterdam Coffeeshops is a series of candid conversations with coffeeshop patrons about life, cannabis, and everything in between. In our seventh installment, Mark—a Bluebird patron since 1992—shares the ins and outs of theatrical tailoring, and explains how the decision to buy a ’78 Volkswagen camper van was the best highdea he ever had.

Name: Mark

Hometown: Purmerend, The Netherlands

Age: 43

Cannabis preference: Variety; hat-tips to Kush and Moroccan hashish

Met at: Bluebird

The People You Meet in Amsterdam Coffeeshops: Mark | Leafly(Karina Hof for Leafly)

Leafly: You’re here on a break. From what?

Mark: I work in the theater. I make costumes for the opera. Tristan und Isolde premiers next Wednesday. Rake’s Progress is next month.

Theatrical tailoring sounds challenging.

It’s nice to do stoned. It’s a job where you don’t need to communicate a lot with people. If you work in the service industry, I imagine you can’t do that. Not that I’m completely baked, but I can smoke a little and then continue.

Do your colleagues smoke?

Well, the thing is that in the Netherlands, it’s not very socially accepted. People look at it as though it slows you down, like you’re kinda lazy. From the perspective of the pot smoker, we see this very differently. All this rushing and all this economy bullshit doesn’t really have our interest. Most people at work know that I smoke, and some of them used to or still smoke, but not as routinely as I do, not daily. Some colleagues in the building also come to this coffeeshop because it’s the proper distance from work: a walk away but still far enough. There’s coffeeshops everywhere, so you could just go across the street, but that’s not very sensible if you don’t want to be seen.

I have a lot of expat friends who obviously all smoke; for most people, that would be a main reason to choose Amsterdam as a destination. But among friends I grew up with, they stopped smoking between their 30s and 40s; most of them became fitness freaks.

What other changes have you noticed?

I’ve come to Bluebird since ’92. In the beginning, it used to be really famous for the hashish. They had a wide variety and good quality, and nowadays, they sell perfect marijuana.

More and more girls are coming here, but still it’s mostly groups of guys visiting from England, France, or Germany, so relatively close by. Laws elsewhere are changing—even in France they are less strict now—which might mean we won’t be as busy in the Netherlands. This one man still comes here from New York. He’s this old dude—77, I think—from the Andy Warhol scene. Not long ago, he was in Las Vegas, and he explained: “You can smoke there, but you have to walk around with your vaporizer in the street and watch that you don’t get caught.”

How do you think this year’s experimental legislation to allow cannabis farming in the Netherlands will go?

I myself grow outdoors, always for the sport of it. I can have up to five plants, but as soon as the police come, they can take whatever they want. So if my neighbors complain about whatever, the police can come and take it. If you resist they will arrest you. It’s not regulated. The way I see it, it’s therefore only worthwhile if you do it big. In the ’90s, there used to be a lot of people that had just one square meter for growing at home, and they made some nice pocket money. Usually they were smokers themselves, so the quality of their marijuana was good. It was organic; nobody used bullshit.

I know in America, there are lawyers who quit their jobs to start growing. Obviously, you need serious money to start growing, but then it’s regulated. The government watches along with you and it’s being checked. Having all those cannabis barcodes is a good thing because you control the quality. I don’t like the system in the Netherlands; it’s stupid. It leaves a lot of room for people with bad intentions. The people with good intentions, if they get caught, it’s not worth the risk anymore. For example, growing under a lamp is not allowed. They change the laws all the time, so nobody really knows what’s going on.

What’s the best idea you’ve had stoned?

The decision to buy an antique van: a 1978 Volkswagen camper. It was something I was afraid to do because I’m not very technically inclined—I don’t know how to take a motor apart and put it back together. Then I got really stoned and thought: “Aw, fuck it.” I’ve had the van for 16 years, and it’s tripled in value. I go on holiday with it every year. My son is eight now and he’s completely in love with it. I cannot ever sell it. I have to preserve it.

And driving age in the Netherlands is?

18.

Ten years to go.

Yeah [laughs]. Well, he can start driving with my other car.

This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Lead image: Karina Hof for Leafly.

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