If you’re not in Colorado or Washington, and you’ve ever spent more than $100 on weed at once, you’ve probably taken a relaxing vacation away from criminality in Amsterdam. That’s because smoking a joint legally in a beautiful European city, surrounded by both erudite Dutchmen and shit-drunk Scottish stag parties, is generally much more preferable to hot-boxing your friend’s car in a parking lot, slamming the music off and ducking behind the seats every time another car drives by.
But where are other Europeans supposed to go to snort, smoke or ingest in peace? Coke-heads used to have that Bolivian jail where you could buy fishscale direct from the prisoners, but that’s now banished to backpacker lore, ruined by swaths of international media attention and a warden who realized that presiding over a state-funded gak factory probably wouldn’t look great on his resume.
In 2013, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) conducted a study of 42 European cities, analyzing local waste-water (sewage, essentially) to determine which drug was most widely used in each area. Some of the results were as you’d expect, but there were a few in there that stuck out a little, and those are the ones we’ve laid out below in our guide to Europe’s secret drug capitals.
Shockingly, Antwerp—a city full of diamond traders and fashion students—is also full of cocaine. In fact, Europe’s coke capital is so keen on the stuff that nefarious pigeon fanciers have started doping their racing birds with performance-enhancing gak.
One potential reason behind the Belgian capital’s fondness for blow is that almost 25 percent of the cocaine shipped to Europe from South America makes its way through the country, and a large chunk of that through the port of Antwerp. Conveniently—and kind of unbelievably—only two percent of the containers passing through the port each year are actually screened, meaning not a lot gets seized.
And lucky for the city’s residents, that bountiful supply translates into low, low prices; at an average of $68 a gram, it kind of makes sense that it’s so widely used.
Cannabis growing all over the hills of Lazarat. Photo by Axel Kronholm
The bucolic town of Lazarat is slightly different from many other pastoral Albanian towns, in that its green pastures are mostly made up of cannabis plants, which produce around 900 tons of bud every year. Families can survive off a harvest for a whole year—and growing really is a family business, which is probably why it’s not a good idea to fuck with the kush farmers of Lazarat.
A couple of weeks ago, for example, 800 police surrounded the town. Upon realizing they were boxed-in, residents decided to base their response on the archetypal Michael Bay drug dealer—by grabbing some RPGs and machine guns, and blasting the overwhelmed cops off their turf. Thousands of plants were destroyed, but in the end the police retreated.
The 2014 European Drug Report came out last week and told us exactly what we already knew: that Europeans are very fond of drugs. Here are some handy heat maps for those of you who don’t know how to read.
This Guy Is Trying to Collect Every Single Copy of the Movie ‘Speed’ on VHS
Ryan Beitz owns over 500 copies of the movie Speed on VHS. He also owns 26 laser discs of the film, but those aren’t part of the collection. He just holds onto them so he can use them as bargaining chips to get more on VHS. His goal is a simple one: To collect every copy of Speed on VHS ever made. His other goal? To trick out his 15-passenger van to look just like the bus in the movie.
In order to see the World Speed Project in action, I decided to visit him at his current residence in Moscow, Idaho, where he has scattered all his copies of Speed throughout the van in anticipation of my arrival, and lined the ceiling with them. As we talk, he drives me and a handful of his friends out through the woods via a restricted-access sheep farm on his college campus. As he drives, copies of Speed periodically fall from the ceiling onto the floor.
VICE: Are we allowed to be back here? Ryan Beitz: Yeah, whatever. The signs just say “No Public Access.” We got official business. I don’t have car insurance now, but that’s OK because I only drive the van around for show. We’re going like 35, and I feel like we’re being respectful. We’re not trying to scare the sheep or like, steal them. Although we could put a sheep in here.
Why don’t you tell me what got you started collecting the Speeds? I lived in Seattle and was super broke, and I had to come up with Christmas presents for my family. Usually I would just, like, dumpster-dive books or something and give them to them, but when I was at the pawn shop they had six copies of Speed, and I thought it would be really funny to get everybody in my family the same gift, even me. I wanted to watch them open them one at a time and go, “Oh, Speed. Don’t we already have this?” Somebody else would go, “Oh, Speed. Really funny, Ryan.” Then by the time you went around, everybody would have gotten the same gift from me. Then I could tell them that I love them all equally, you know? Just some bullshit.
Then when I bought all six it was, like, way too good. I realized it was really fascinating to have that many, like, same copies of a thing. What really cemented it was when I went to another pawn shop, and they had, like, 30 copies. I said, “I’ll take them all.” They sold them to me for 11 cents a copy.
How many copies do you have right now? I don’t know, like 550 or something. I haven’t counted in a while ‘cause who really cares?
And you’re going to collect them all. Yeah. People always go, “Dude how many of these things are you going to get?” And I’m like, “All of them, duh.”
When AMC’s Breaking Bad premiered in 2008, one of Alabama’s most successful meth cooks was already knee deep in building a massive meth empire. His name? Walter White. In this documentary, Walter tells us the secret behind his product, how he stacked up thousands of dollars per day, and why his partner is now serving two life sentences.
I Dated an MCAT (Bath Salts, Not the Medical School Test) Addict for Two Months
On the morning I turned 25, I woke up to find my brain had disappeared, replaced by a barren mental landscape populated by the odd tumbleweed and a few lonely crickets. I couldn’t make sense of anything. I was floating, but not in a good way.
This was because for the past two months I thought I had innocently been popping molly, when in reality, it was a member of the bath salts family I’d been unwittingly indulging in.
Remember bath salts? The quasi-legal drugs that made headlines last year because people were taking them and going on psychotic rampages? The substances that wrecked entire communities? Yup, that’s what I had been taking by mistake.
Some backstory is necessary: In the middle of winter, I started seeing a new guy. From what I could see, he was addicted to a drug called MCAT, which he described as “like MDMA” but with less serious side effects. The high didn’t last as long, he said, so popping one was less of a commitment. That was a complete lie—from what I can tell, the side effects are far more serious. MCAT fucked with my serotonin levels worse than any other drug I’ve touched.
In hindsight, I realize that the fact I had so much trust in my MCAT-loving boyfriend makes me sound a bit crazy. The dude kept a toolkit stuffed with this white powder beneath his bed. While the rest of his room was pandemonium, the kit was pristine and organized, like the contents of a doctor’s bag. Inside were several grams of MCAT, tucked in carefully beside baggies of soon-to-be-filled pill capsules. There was also a hollow glass tube—open at both ends—that he’d bought at a medical supply store. Because fuck snorting this stuff with $20 bills, right? That would just be amateur hour.
"Well," I said, surreptitiously picking a peroxide scab off my head. "I guess I’ve finally burned out like everyone wants me to." I was eating on a steak and trying not to gag while I chewed.
"Hmm," said my agent. "Well, what are we going to do—"
"I don’t know, man," I gulped, and my hands started shaking. "Let me just try to explain the situation. I have no money and everyday eat empanadas from the corner that I pay for in laundry quarters. My apartment looks like a fucking personality disorder. You can barely open the door—"
"Uh huh," said Byrd.
"—I mean there are perfume bottle shards in my feet and there’s blood and oatmeal on the floor—"
"Cat," Byrd said. "You can’t live like this anymore."
But couldn’t I? On the way home I thought about all of the things instead of writing that I’d been doing.
I was Rolling Stone's ”Hot Bukowski.” I was the toast of the town. I was puking flowers afterhours; I was letting everybody down. I read a Tatler article: "London’s Seven Loveliest Lesbians." I mocked a skeleton dressed as Kenny Scharf at Gold Bar. There was ethanol, Adderall, night rainbows, Nalaxone. I sat around stoned in Soho House while the concierge charged my iPhone. I stuffed Artforum in my oven and stacked Richardson on the stove. I saw Pointbreak at MOMA; I saw 3 PM Hunger Games in LA at the Grove: “(PG-13) for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images—all involving teens.” I bleached everything I owned and my knuckles burned and scabbed from the bleach.
I snorted dope in DUMBO and I smoked dust on the beach. I preyed on editors during the day and slept with monsters at night. Life’s never dowdy in an Audi scoring pudé up in Washington Heights, is it babes? I drank Diet Coke and had coke sex and sat in Yorkville townhouse basements playing Mario Kart on a grimy old Super Nintendo. We smoked crack until our fingers turned black and watched Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto. I chilled with famous downtown stupor freaks tweaking and listening to Diplo.
“WHY IS EVERYBODY DRESSED LIKE MR. PEANUT?!" I screamed once at Le Baron. I had about 40 pounds of fake hair on.
"Shhh," Same said. "You are dusted." And though I was confused of course I trusted him.
The Boom Boom Room was always full of doom. Our PCP smelled like burnt balloons. I was dressed Boricua heroin chic. Shaun was asking me if I saw Wu Tang at Milk Studios that one weird Fashion Week.
"Oh Jesus God, does it fucking matter?” I screamed. “Is this a ‘Big Picture’ problem?” The bathroom line disasters are as disastrous as disasters can be. “Shaun, the little coke girls are STARING AT ME.”
“They are staring at us because we know them,” Shaun said. “You’ve had them over to your house to do drugs at least four times. Invite them over. They’re the little LES… dominatrixes. They have tons of tons of drugs and money and they’re nice.”