In an era where two-thirds of Americans support legalizing cannabis, it’s easy to forget about the way the Netherlands shaped cannabis culture. It’s even been predicted that Las Vegas, the city of glitz and glam, will eclipse Amsterdam as the go-to spot for cannabis.
However, without the permissive culture of the Dutch, and their expansive seed bank, cannabis enthusiasts would have had less opportunity to openly share their passion for the past fifty plus years. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Dutch politicians and health officials set up a commission to examine the country’s drug policy. Ultimately, they decided that cannabis should be decriminalized, recommending that: “Use of cannabis and the possession of small quantities be taken out of criminal law straight away.”
That was enough for the industry to take off. At the time, there weren’t as many chemovars for consumers to enjoy. The Netherlands provided a safe haven for cultivators eager to experiment with genetics. The country’s early seed merchants were pioneers. They cultivated new chemovars as well as old favorites. The infamous Amsterdam coffee shops burst into being alongside the seed banks.
One of the biggest figures in this world was David “Sam the Skunkman” Watson, an American who allegedly landed in Amsterdam with 250,000 cannabis seeds in the 1970s. He went on to co-found Hortapharm, a seed bank that has amassed a sizeable collection of seeds from around the world.
Watson and others cultivated the chemovars consumers love today. Jack Herer®, for example, was conceived and popularized by Dutch company Sensi Seeds. Watson himself brought Skunk #1, a hybrid first cultivated in California, to the Netherlands where it flourished. Watson’s Skunk #1 took first place at the inaugural High Times Cannabis Cup in 1988. Northern Lights is another American chemovar that thrived in the Netherlands. Both Northern Lights and Skunk #1 are parents to many popular cultivars. Dutch-based Green House Seeds produced White Widow, which is among the most popular chemovars on the planet. Interestingly, Hortapharm went on to partner with GW Pharmaceuticals in 1998.
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