What Is A Smartshop?

What Is A Smartshop?

Adam Parsons
Adam Parsons
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For many people, the idea of walking into a shop and buying drugs is a pipe dream. But in some places, it's a reality. Originating in the Netherlands, smartshops are stores that are legally allowed to sell psychoactive substances. Read on to discover more about them.

What's the Difference Between Smartshops and Headshops?

What's the Difference Between Smartshops and Headshops?

Though the terms are often used interchangeably, there is an important distinction between smartshops and headshops. Simply put, smartshops are legally allowed to sell psychoactive drugs, whereas headshops are not.

Headshops specialise mostly in drug paraphernalia. Expect to see cabinets overflowing with gleaming bongs and more blunt wraps than you can shake a stick at.

Smartshops can and do sell these items, but they specialise in the trade of psychoactive substances. Not only can you buy “soft” drugs in a smartshop, but the staff should be highly knowledgeable about them too.

The History of Smartshops

The History of Smartshops

This history of smartshops is somewhat shrouded. They seem to have originated in the Netherlands, specifically Amsterdam, and grew with the rise in drug culture that occurred in the 60s.

What we do know is that cannabis coffeeshops began to appear in the 70s, with the first official coffeeshop—The Bulldog—opening in 1975. It seems likely that smartshops appeared in a similar way to coffeeshops; beginning as legally dubious, below-the-radar operations that then gained popularity.

The first official smartshop seems to have been the Art, Mind and Design Centre, opened by Hans van den Hurk. Its first year of life was fairly slow, selling mainly “smart nutrients” such as Blast, Fast Blast, and Memory Fuel, as well as art by local teenagers.

It wasn’t until they began stocking dried magic mushrooms that things really began to take off. Once these little fungi were on the shelves, popularity soared. It wasn’t long until Hans had a host of shops across Amsterdam, and around 100 wholesale clients.

Since 2002, when dried magic mushrooms were made illegal, smartshops have been on the decline.

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What Can I Buy in a Smartshop?

What Can I Buy in a Smartshop?

The term “smartshop” arose because these establishments operate under the legal understanding that they sell psychoactive products to enhance cognitive ability; hence “smart”. Despite this name and definition, this should not be taken too literally.

Nevertheless, the drugs they are able to sell tend to be those more associated with growth and well-being, rather than party drugs that take days to recover from. Legally, all the drugs sold in smartshops must be natural. Synthetic compounds are classified differently in the Netherlands.

Examples of some drugs you may find in a smartshop are:

Smartshops: Founts of Education and Information

Smartshops: Founts of Education and Information

A good smartshop is not just somewhere to buy drugs, but a place to obtain thoughtful and knowledgeable advice regarding soft drugs. Staff should be able to advise you on dosage, effects and side effects of the different drugs they stock, the legality surrounding their consumption, and more.

Smartshop staff should never encourage excessive use of their products.

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Where Can I Find Smartshops?

Where Can I Find Smartshops?

Smartshops appeared and are still found in the highest concentration in the Netherlands, specifically Amsterdam. It is possible to find them all over the world, though, but they might be called headshops, depending on where you are.

If you live outside of a dense urban space, it’s highly likely you don’t have easy access to a well-stocked smartshop. But never fear! Zamnesia's online smartshop ships all over Europe and stocks a fantastic range of high-quality products, as well as a wealth of relevant information on our blog.

Legality of Smartshops

Legality Of Smartshops

In the Netherlands, smartshops operate legally so long as they only sell natural products. In other countries, the legality can vary significantly. For instance, in some countries, they sell substances not as drugs, but as “research chemicals” advertised as not being for human consumption. So depending on location, you may find that smartshops exist via loopholes in the law, rather than within a strict legal framework. In these instances, changes often occur fairly rapidly.

If ordering any substances, it is essential to check their legality in your own country. Just because you order it legally online doesn’t mean it will still be legal once it crosses the border!

Adam Parsons
Adam Parsons
Professional cannabis journalist, copywriter, and author Adam Parsons is a long-time staff member of Zamnesia. Tasked with covering a wide range of topics from CBD to psychedelics and everything in between, Adam creates blog posts, guides, and explores an ever-growing range of products.