The long lasting effects of cannabis
If you are a cannabis user and have ever cycled through Amsterdam, you were more than likely driving under the influence of marijuana, especially if we assume that cannabis stays in your system for longer than a couple of days. According to the Dutch addiction prevention center Jellinek, cannabis can be found in your body via urine test for up to 5 days to 3 weeks, or even a month if you are a heavy user. Conversely, the high can technically affect you for up to 2 to 4 hours. While later you may not feel stoned at all, a routine urine test could produce a "positive" result. Unlike alcohol that leaves your system within hours, depending on the amount consumed, you could be assumed driving under the influence of cannabis several days after the consumption took place. Most will say that a joint smoked 3 days ago will not affect their driving or cycling skills, so we decided to have a deeper look at the legality of cycling for stoners.
Based on information gathered by the Jellinek clinic, poeple driving under the influence of cannabis have a double chance of getting into a traffic accident compared to ones who consumed no cannabis. Driving under the influence of cannabis is illegal and punishable by law. Cannabis will reduce your coordination skills, chance your perception of distance and speed, and reduce your ability to react to signs and sounds around you.
I am not driving a car, just cycling. What's the big deal?
While crashing yourself on a bike may be less socially damaging than a car crash, it can still cause major danger on the road, and affect other people. As a bicyclist in the Netherlands, you are still an active participant in traffic, so in the face of the law, the driving under influence laws still apply. Bicycle laws state that driving under the influence of alcohol will be punished with a €100 fine.
Though the basic bike laws do not specify cannabis, it can be assumed that if the law enforcement suspects that you are under heavy influence of cannabis, you could be forced into a routine saliva test (speekseltest) on the spot, followed by a blood test at the police station. These saliva tests have been introduced on July 1st, 2017. Though questioned by many for their level of accuracy, they may be used by police to determine if one is under the influence of THC, amphetamines, cocaine, heroin or the "date rape" drug GHB. The saliva test results cannot be used as evidence, hence blood tests follow. In practice, these tests are rarely used, but should you be involved in causing an accident, while driving a car, motorised scooter or a bicycle, they most likely will test you. If you are proven guilty, you may face the same criminal charges as for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Amsterdam is known for cannabis
Many visitors assume that in Amsterdam, anything cannabis goes. This includes smoking on playgrounds, parks, the streets or at a tram stop. That is far from true. Smoking a joint while cruising on a bike throughout the beautiful Amsterdam canals? Seems like a dream, but is illegal by law. Pot is actually just tolerated ("gedoogd" in Dutch), but not exactly fully legal, encouraged or socially acceptable, apart from in coffeeshops and in the city center. You won't be bothered or stopped for smoking a doobie in the park, as long as you are not bothering anyone, but certain areas of the city now have specially designed signs showing that smoking cannabis is illegal, and you can expect to be fined for public consumption. You will not see many of these signs in the city center, as they are more frequent in residential areas where mostly juvenile smokers were bothering the local neighborhoods. Just be sensible and respectful to not bother people around you.
I am a medical cannabis user, and I have a doctor's perscription. Can I smoke and cycle?
Legally the answer is no. The Dutch law does not make any exemptions for medical users, let alone recreational users in regards to participating in traffic while stoned, although bicyclists are rarely controlled or tested during every day life. It is a grey zone whether you are still under the influence days after consumption so technically, if you ever smoke pot, you should never drive or cycle. In reality, it would be hard to believe that anyone abides by these rules. Should you smoke and cycle, do it at your own risk, realizing the stance of the law, and don't cycle by police controls with a fat J in your mouth. Be sensible, we all want to be safe on the road!