People race to buy last-minute weed as coronavirus rules shut Dutch coffeeshops

People standing in line outside a coffeeshop set to close for coronavirus regulations
As businesses were ordered closed to cope with coronavirus, people crowd outside coffeeshop Nogal Wiedes to make one last purchase before April 6. March 15, 2020NL TimesNL Times

A cheerful, smiling blond woman named Dee walked out of coffeeshop Nogal Wiedes in Amsterdam Centrum having purchased a gram of hash just before the government's new emergency measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic took effect. The policy was introduced at about 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, and included a mandate that all restaurants, bars, cafes, fitness centers, saunas, sex clubs, and coffeeshops close from 6 p.m. on Sunday through April 6.

She was among hundreds of people who rushed out to coffeeshops around the Netherlands trying to make one last purchase before dusk, when patrons would otherwise have to wait three weeks before buying cannabis or hash without risk of prosecution.

"I came here because I've learned that everything's gonna be shut down for the next few weeks," Dee told NL Times. "I'm basically thinking that at some point I'll run out of ideas of what to do at home."

Coffeeshop Best Friends tried to serve dozens of customers at its Amsterdam Oost location before staff members closed and locked the heavy, painted shutters. One staff member said that people raced to their shop once the new regulation was made clear.

"There were 30 or 40 people here after the government said we have to close," he told NL Times. "And many of them did not get to buy their stuff," he added miserably.

The situation was the same in cities across the country, including in Breda, Nijmegen, and Utrecht, where lines snaked around coffeeshop facades, down sidewalks, and across plazas. 

Back in Centrum, one person cycling down the street laughed as he rode past the long line of 20 anxious men still waiting hopefully outside Nogal Wiedes as the new restrictions entered into force. He parked his bike, looked at the crowd, and snickered as he said, "Fucking crazy, man!"

When asked if he lived nearby or if he was buying cannabis, the young man replied, "I live here, and I'm buying!" He then slid his over-ear headphones past his curly black hair, laughed, and took his place in line.

Coffeeshop Best Friends in Amsterdam Oost
Coffeeshop Best Friends in Amsterdam Oost closed early as coronavirus rules took effect. March 15, 2020NL TimesNL Times

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