It's still cool to buy some weed and smoke a joint in one of Amsterdam's fine coffee houses, but the freedom-hating health nuts at the European Union have shoved their anti-tobacco agenda down that fair city's throat! This is a real problem for Amsterdam's stoners, since they enjoy the European tradition of mixing tobacco with their hash and Mary Jane.

"This city's famed marijuana bars have weathered many challenges over the years and are still smoking. But now they face an unwelcome blast of fresh air: On July 1, the Netherlands will be one of the last European countries to ban smoking in bars and restaurants in compliance with EU law.

"The Health Ministry says the ban will apply to cafes that sell marijuana, known as coffee shops. But this being Holland, which for centuries has experimented with social liberalism, there's a loophole: The ban covers tobacco but not marijuana, which is technically illegal anyway.

"But that still leaves coffee shops and their customers in a bind. Dutch and other European marijuana users traditionally smoke pot in fat, cone-shaped joints mixed with tobacco. 'It's the world upside down: In other countries they look for the marijuana in the cigarette. Here they look for the cigarette in the marijuana,' said Jason den Enting, manager of coffee shop Dampkring.

"Shops are scrambling to adapt. One alternative is 'vaporizer' machines, which incinerate weed smokelessly. Another is to replace tobacco with herbs like coltsfoot, a common plant that looks like a dandelion and that smokers describe as tasting a bit like oregano.

"But most shops are just planning to increase their sales of hash brownies and pure weed - and are hoping the law isn't enforced." [AP]