Amsterdam's Marijuana Museum

The grow room in Amsterdam's Marijuana Museum.
By Rick Steves

Though informative, this earnest museum is small and overpriced, with much to teach but little to entertain. But if you patiently read the displays, you'll learn plenty about cannabis and its various uses through history.

The leafy, green cannabis plant was grown by (among others) Golden Age Dutch merchants on large plantations. They turned the fibrous stalks (hemp) into rope and canvas for ships, and used it to make clothing and lace.

The museum's highlight is the grow room, where you look through windows at real live cannabis plants in various stages of growth, some as tall as my mom. Grown hydroponically (in water, no soil) under grow lights, at a certain stage they're "sexed" to weed out the boring males and "selected" to produce the most powerful strains.

Pot should never be bought on the street in Amsterdam. Throughout the Netherlands you'll see "coffeeshops" — pubs selling marijuana — which are considered much safer. The minimum age for purchase is 18. Coffeeshops can sell up to five grams of marijuana per person per day.