Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hippie Parties in Sweden

I struggle with spelling the word “hippy”. Or “hippie.” I like “hippie” better. It seems more distinguished, which is obviously what hippies are going for.

Just the other night I found myself at a hippie party. Somewhat unwittingly. Hippies and I don’t always get along. The party was meant to be a birthday party. And it was. It just so happened that when scheduling parties outdoors in public spaces, it’s hard to know what else is going on. And so there was a hippie party going on.

The party consisted of lots of hippie dancing. Lots of hemp clothing. Very few shoes. Lots and lots of alcohol. Which isn’t necessarily a sign of a hippie party but it was there.

What wasn’t there was weed. The lack of Swedish drug use amazed me. I didn’t smell any marijuana at all. Nearly three hours of hippie party with a DJ and hippies everywhere and no weed. It was incredible. That same party in the US would have been submerged by a hazy cloud of marijuana smoke. Not so in Sweden.

Going to school in Eugene, I became quite familiar with the drug. Not because I used it. I never have. But because plenty of other people did. It was everywhere. Not using sometimes seemed rarer than actually using it. Most parties had at least a couple of people who were stoned, looking to get stoned, or looking to get someone else stoned. Here in Sweden, marijuana seems to be treated with the same attitude as many people treat heroin in the US.

I remember being amazed by this while studying abroad in Uppsala. I did more partying there than anywhere else, which, considering it is me, still might not be that much, but I only smelled weed once. And the party damn near stopped as people became incredibly nervous. Apparently, even second hand weed can make people paranoid.

Only once more have I been around the drug while in Sweden. This time in more of an American setting. But still, a lot of precaution was taken.

Until the hippie party, I hadn’t really thought about those two episodes all that much. It was strange to realize that the absence of something could be felt so strongly. I suppose I have such a strong association between weed and hippies that the lack of it made me take notice.

It seems that the stigma of drug use in Sweden is much stronger than in the US. I see weed as one of those recreational drugs that people use in college. Kind of like binge drinking. Most people get out just fine. Some don’t. Collateral damage if you will. But it’s such a part of the college culture that I never really treated it with nearly as much disdain as the Swedes seem to.

I don’t even have the slightest clue as to why this is. I don’t see Swedish anti-drug commercials. I don’t see strung out people on the streets acting as an example. I don’t see extremely stringent laws against drug use. Maybe those are the very reasons weed isn’t nearly as ubiquitous.

Whatever the reason, I quite liked the lack of marijuana. Not having to deal with a bunch of stoned college kids looking for more weed and more chips made for an enjoyable evening. Now if we could only do something about all the damn cigarette smoke.

Welcome to Sweden. Where weed is relegated to untended fields. See what I did there?

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  1. I was surprised at this in all my time in Europe as well. The only signs of weed even being around was once in Germany someone put some weed in a cigarette they were rolling. The other time was in Gothenburg when a friend said that "Australia had some good weed".

  2. The drug laws are pretty harsh in Sweden compared to its Neighboring countries.

  3. As a Swede in Toronto I am amazed by the fact that you're not allowed to enjoy a bottle of wine while having a picnic in the park, but smoking a joint on the street seems perfectly normal.

  4. So, basically you're saying that Sweden is more uptight about drugs than the US is? (Except when it comes to cigarettes?)

  5. second hand paranoia.....very witty

  6. @Zach - it just seems to be a completely different drug culture.

    @anonymous - that might be, but they aren't really harsh compared to the drug laws in the US.

    @Ewa - bit of a different valuation of drugs and alcohol. some people would probably argue that Canada has it figured out more than Sweden.

    @anonymous - I'm saying that when it comes to marijuana, Sweden is much more uptight than the US.

    @john - anything for you.

  7. lessons learned for you: not all hippies smoke weed?

  8. It's very true, I've never once felt the smell of weed in my entire life, not that I know of anyway... I guess I never thought about it that much because you know when something isn't all around you, and never has been, you just don't think about it. But if even the hippies aren't smoking weed over here, boy, are we in bad shape! Help us, Hairy Swede!

  9. That's funny. Noting something by it's absence, very Augustinian.
    As far as the mystery of what is a hippie, also St A's definition of time: "What then is time? If no one asks me, I know: if I wish to explain it to one that asketh, I know not."

  10. They don't seem to have a problem with it in Amsterdam...

  11. Hey! It's Katherine! Your original shoeless friend! I signed up for this last week, finally. I find it completely appropriate that this is the first installment to come to me via email. I really enjoyed how all of the Americans and Canadians in Uppsala assumed I would be able to tell them where to find weed, as if I would know, because I am from Oregon. I also recall a few good conversations with Swedes, learning about what marijuana REALLY does to you. Interesting perspectives and ideas, but yes, perhaps slightly overblown, but still nice to not have it central to social life.

  12. Katherine, all we (most Swedes) know about marijuana is that it's "very bad" and "that you shouldn't do it" because that's what our teachers told us in school. Most of us have never tried it, though, so we don't know if or to what extent it's true and neither did the teachers back then, so I guess we were given mostly horror propaganda. You've tried it, right, though? Please, tell me - is it good? Where can I get some?

  13. Here's a name for you to google: Bejerot.

    The anti-drug propaganda is very thorough in school and much of the general culture. Many people actually believe all of it. As in they think you run a very high risk of dying or going schizophrenic from smoking a bit of cannabis. Anything else than cannabis and death is certain.

    As a semi-frequent indulger myself, am very aware of all this. I am picky about who I let in on some of my habits.

    With things like the internet (or even non-government television!) and more young people going abroad this is changing, of course. And as mentioned, exchange students are always a good bet if you're out of town and looking for some gear.

  14. looks like someone deals marijuana here is Stockholm,since the university doesn't run in summer i gonna be hanging around at all the places you've named in prior postes to find out who reeks of weed !
    but today i witnessed something quit extraordinary more than the (yesterday power lost)while i was on a train heading towards täby we had a drunk man on train(hip hip hooray) he was talking hilariously and making all jokes apparently since i don't speak Svenska !!
    that was incredible i was about to thanks him for that perfect job(ice breaking) but i thought well it might ruin the moment, so just stayed in my chair trying not to look at the people who were kissing 30cm away from me! which usually make people feel uncomfortable, i wonder if it's same in USA !

  15. Here in Canada, in my province, Ontario, at least, you are allowed to have up to 30 grams for personal use. If you are above and beyond that, the following sentencing applies:

    The federal legislation includes the following new measures:

    Proposed Mandatory Sentences for Schedule II Drugs

    • Trafficking: 1-2 YEARS minimum

    • Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking: 1-2 YEARS minimum

    • Importing/Exporting: 1 YEAR minimum

    • Possession for the Purpose of Exporting: 1 YEAR minimum

    • Production of 1 - 200 plants: 6 MONTHS minimum
    With Health and Safety Factors: 9 MONTHS minimum

    • Production of 201 - 500 plants: 1 YEAR minimum
    With Health and Safety Factors: 18 MONTHS minimum

    • Production of more than 500 plants: 2 YEARS minimum
    With Health and Safety Factors: 3 YEARS minimum

    • Production of oil or resin: 1 YEAR minimum
    With Health and Safety Factors: 18 MONTHS minimum

    I think the government has better things to worry about. As a former heavy recreational drug user (I was really into clubbing and house music back at uni...still am into the house music) marijuana wasn't really much a cause of concern in terms of quality and availability. I myself hated it because it made me really giggly and hungry but you sleep really well after smoking a maybe there is an upside? The biggest concern should be chemicals like cocaine, meth, and ecstasy which are largely unregulated and if you take them you never know what you are getting unless you have a very reliable source. Rather than focusing on how BAD drugs are for you, I reckon the best way to go about it is to emphasize education on their short and long term effects and also to realise that people enjoy and will do drugs regardless of whether they can get them legally or not. Sorry for the long rant Hairy.

    -Ewa, I am in Kitchener, about an hour away from Toronto, would love to chat with you sometime:)

  16. Awe I love this post. I realized this too, complete lack of weed. People are shocked when I explained how common it is in the US. They really thinks you like, die or go to a mental hospital if you smoke. As a part-hippie myself, I find this quite sad. Propaganda. I guess it's not likely to show up at a midsummer party or anything. Bummer. Personally, I think Swe could do with a few long-haired, stoner dudes. But maybe it's just me...

  17. NSAIDs chemically altered are just as common here as on the other side of the Atlantic (from what I've heard), and that's far more alarming than a little weed. barefoot party and dancing sounds pretty healthy to me.

  18. First, I've been lurking around and enjoying your blog for quite some time. Thank you for writing it. It makes me feel not so alone in this Swedish, Swedish world I'm living in.

    But about what you were saying- it's true. People see marijuana quite differently here, often seen in league with more dangerous drugs. I'm guessing this is largely due to the newness/strangeness of the drug to Swedish culture. The alcohol culture here, by contrast, is ingrained in Swedish cultural habits.

    However, Malmö stad has been taking action against marijuana use and actually has an anti-weed campaign complete with posters around the city:

    Perhaps there are more hippies down here in Skåne?

    Anyway, I think the drug attitude is best summed up by a comment I found in a forum on the

    "in sweden its socially acceptable to drink yourself into oblivion, pinch womens asses in bars, puke several times on your way home in public, and pass out and poop yourself in the stairway to your apartment.

    But never, ever sit at home, smoke a spliff and watch tv! This is strictly forbidden!"

  19. Im pretty sure cannabis is rather common in sweden. But its something you do with your mates or at home, not something you bring to a party or like it is in lets say Amsterdam where you can even find ppl using it on "uteserveringar" and have police walk right by, aslong as those people doesnt press it up in their face.

    Just like i bet prositiution is rather common in sweden, even tho its illegal. Compared to places like amsterdam and berlin.
    Everyone got opinions, and its mostly the people who got strong opinions, like those who say cannabis is extremly bad for you, or who never tried it/got no friends who tried it, who you hear the most.
    People who got no predjudices against cannabis, tried it maybe or got friends who have done it, doubt would care to write alot of praise about it on a blog like this.
    Most people know its not something healthy, but at the same time its not that dangerous really. And i bet most people who actually say it worked as a transition drug to the bigger once, would eventually do something retarded anyway and end up using those.

    Btw Pineapple express is a very cool movie :)

  20. Thx man , made my day, it was a great movie!
    and special thx goes out to Mr. hairy for this awsome weblog

  21. Call me stupid (or just Swedish), but I think we have it right. Why use a susbstance that only makes you (more) stupid? Very few people need that... And no, I also don't drink myself into a stupor, never have.

  22. As mentioned about the attitude has to do with schooling, unquestioned government information, etc... Swedish drug laws are all based on morality. Scientific evidence or knowledge to back up the laws is non-existent, because unlike in other countries where drugs are illegal, but legal in certain scientific labs, drugs are not used for tests here. So the drug laws and the public's drug opinions are based on a typically loggerheaded, vehement, Swedish consensus not based on fact or science, but rather bias, fear, American drug policies, a Swedish flip-flopping drug-Czar (check out Sweden's history with intravenous amphetamine use) and general Swedish, totalitarian ignorance.

    Worst of all, I've attended gatherings where people from Swedish government agencies working against narcotics were present and smoking marijuana or enjoying the company of those smoking cannabis. It's hypocrisy, just like the USA. The double standard there and here says: I (the lawmaker, moral icon) may smoke, but the peasants may not.

  23. you are the most boring and strangest blogger, if you don´t like Sweden, Why Don´t you just leave?

  24. @smek – especially of the Swedish variety.

    @Robban – It’s true, clearly Sweden is in serious trouble.

    @Stu – oooh, I like it. Hippies are a difficult thing to define.

    @anonymous – they manage ok there don’t they?

    @Katherine – You were my first shoeless hippie friend. I do remember Sweden. And the party where the weed was being smoked and everyone freaked out. I believe that was the same night I almost ran over you while on a large tire swing. Oops.

    p.s. I owe you an e-mail. And its coming. And will be amazing.

    @Robban – Katherine knows all.

    @Anonymous – he had quite the life. No drugs and Stockholm Syndrome.

    It’s amazing that one man can have such an impact on the drug policies of an entire country and that those policies can continue so many years after his death.

    @Mike – they are out there somewhere.

    And Im glad to hear that you got to experience the drunken Swedish hospitality. It is pretty entertaining for a while. Mostly because it is so different than what usually happens in Sweden.

    @Néstor – Some places in the US are moving to laws like that. And then there is the whole medicinal use thing as well. I think yu are right though. The focus should be on the heavier drugs. That being said, I have seen people who have struggled horribly because of heavy marijuana use so I can understand to some extent the reasoning. But at the same time. I’ve seen people struggle horribly with booze too.

    @m8 – it really is strange to notice something because of its absence. Especially weed. But maybe because it is technically illegal in the US it makes it more noticeable when used there and more noticeable when not used here.

    @anonymous – Its true, there are more important drugs to worry about.

    @Milan – Glad you commented!

    The ad campaign in Malmö is really interesting. I have never seen a single drug ad in Stockholm. I feel a little left out actually. You might be right about the hippie thing though. I think in Stockholm there might be more brats with slicked back hair trying to do some coke in the bathrooms of stureplan.

    And the comment from thelocal was glorious. Its funny because its true.

    @anonymous – see that’s one of those things I kind of wondered about. If it is more of a private thing and that the marijuana culture in the US is just a bit more open.

    I think Im kind of with you though on the not so good but probably not as bad as some people make it out to be.

    @anonymous – thanks!

    @terander – as I said in my post, I have never used marijuana so to be honest, it doesn’t bother me one bit that its missing. I couldn’t help but comment though on the seeming contradiction of a full on hippie party without any weed at all.

    @James – the morality thing is an interesting issue. Kind of going back to that hard working protestant/lutheran background so many Swedes talk about. But then I have to ask about the prostitution thing. Because technically being a prostitute isn’t illegal. Its trying to pay for a prosititute that is. So is the morality that it is wrong to buy sex but not to sell it? Or is this a law that has taken on a more present day morality?

    @anonymous – well that’s just not very nice. And a strange post to write tha ton. There are plenty of posts where I actually criticize Sweden which would be a much more appropriate place to give the classic passive aggressive get the hell out.

    But don’t worry. Being in Sweden is just temporary. I don’t plan on staying. You’ll be free from my boring blog and radical American ideas at some point. I just cant guarantee when.

  25. That was the most boring and strangest comment, if you don't like Hairy, Why Don't you just leave?

    (still enjoying following your blog, you hairy swedish american... you write in a way that entertains)

  26. You should have been there in the 80-ies and early 90-ies, we were all taught about the horrible effects. "Vi barn från Bahnhof zoo" - sorry, don't know the English title, it was a German film I believe, took place in Berlin I think - was shown at every(?) school etc. I have personally seen what can go wrong if one is one of few with some other issue that gets triggered by abuse, through a schoolfriend, but even if you didnt druggies would tour school and tell about their own personal hell.

    Personally I find it so nice not having to smell that sweet heavy smoke wherever I go. Even in US it depends where you are, California has gotten out of control lately. Even at the Marriott last year the smell was coming through the ventilation... In NYC as we speak, and here it seems to at least not be on the streets. Haven't felt any smell so far - and I've been here for some days...

  27. An American GirlJune 3, 2009 at 5:43 PM

    Anonymous, duuuuude... you're harshing the mellow... ;0)

  28. @izi – thanks!

    @Ann-Katrin – oh wow, that sounds pretty intense. And people complaint that kids in the US sometimes get too much drug education that speaks of the evil that is marijuana.

    @An American Girl – well said.

  29. @anon - Why don't you get the hell off the site if you don't like it? You did ruin the mellow. We just don't do like that man.

  30. Sweden (the nordic countries in general?) has a low usage of marijuana. the interesting thing is that so many swedes think that marijuana is really hazardous to your health and that most countries smoke as little (or as well hidden) as swedes do. However, it's my experience that people toke up all over Europe (not sure about Eastern Europe though). Morrocan hasch in Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Southern France. Weed in the UK, the Netherlands, Northern France, Germany, Denmark and Switzerland (boy do the Swiss smoke).

    I guess Swedes are just quite sheltered.

  31. @m8 - its true. we like the mellow.

    @anonymous - Ive got the same impression of Europe in general when it comes to marijuana. Whats interesting is the Danish thing. Which is technically part of Scandinavia. Maybe it just has something to do with being closer to mainland Europe.

  32. @Hairy Swede (re: the morality thing is an interesting issue. Kind of going back to that hard working protestant/lutheran background so many Swedes talk about. But then I have to ask about the prostitution thing. Because technically being a prostitute isn’t illegal. Its trying to pay for a prosititute that is. So is the morality that it is wrong to buy sex but not to sell it? Or is this a law that has taken on a more present day morality?)

    Prostitution is a highly moralized issue as well. But you've probably noticed that, if you haven't already written about it. It used to be illegal to sell sex in Sweden, but due to research and certain debates a reform went through (sexköpslagen; it was 1999 if I remember correctly). This is also a sticky moral issue -- you may have noticed how most Europeans think Swedes are extremely prudish about porn or prostitution (whether they are or not I'm not going to get into) -- yet the basic idea of sexköpslagen is that the women who prostitute themselves do so for structural reasons (i.e. oppression) and the men do it because they are oppressors. Check this out for more info on the ideology:

    Regarding the chat in here about illegal drugs in Sweden, imagine if they were illegal to buy, yet legal to sell.

  33. I have written about the prostitution thing a few times ( I still struggle with it a bit.

    It almost seems counterproductive. As if it drives the sex buyers underground which just doesnt seem like a safe situation. And then theres the whole idea that a woman, for example, is allowed to sell sex then someone should be allowed to buy it. Since the woman is making a choice to sell sex then shouldn't the oppression be gone?

    Maybe everyone just needs to smoke some weed and chill out.

  34. Croatian ReporterJune 4, 2009 at 4:05 PM

    I'm reading your blog while preparing to do some reports about Sweden and I find your observations very helpful (you'd know who I was cuz I contacted you by email). Just to add to this discussion. Croatian Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a war veteran is NOT GUILTY for cultivating small amount of marijuana for personale use! The Court concluded marijuana helped the veteran with symptoms of PTSP. Anyway, marijuana is commonly used among young people in Croatia (not saying that is good) although it's illegal here. Especially at the Adriatic Coast in the summer you can smell the smoke of marijuana at parties, beaches... Different cultures, different habbits!

  35. hi Mr.hairy!
    thx for this glamorous blog first and second ,do you know any website to find out a room or shared apartment in Stockholm with English speakers,please!

  36. @Croatian – The medicinal use of marijuana is one of the arguments that comes up quite a bit in the US also. Especially in California.

    I think though, as you say, it really does come down to the different cultures.

    @Tony – glad you’ve enjoyed it! I would check out They’ve got a discussion board, notice board, links to jobs and housing stuff. Probably your best bet for getting into the English speaking community.

  37. I think it has to do with the way people who take drugs operate in Sweden.. considering it's very heavy focus on alcohol, almost to the point of silent nationalism what with the whole connection to the goverment run Systembolaget, if you end up doing anything but that you're seen as one of those kind of people who can't get their lives in line with those around you.

    And you can never have too many chips. I salute those scavengers of potato-goodness.

  38. oh I like it. your connection to systmet is a good one and one that I think I agree with, state sanctioned drug use.

    and the chip scavengers... well Im usually following right behind and I dont even smoke. potato-goodness is hard to beat.

  39. im always amazed at the lack of drug use as well. i was so suprised to hear that most of the people ive asked have not tried it. i myself have not tried it, but im not being a hypocrite.
    i believe that less that 2 percent of people at the age of 20 in canada have NOT tried some sort of illegal drug, thats LESS THAN 2 PERCENT!!! where as in sweden, i have not read any kind of statistic, but it seems thats its probably over 60 percent.
    im not sure. all i know is ive seem weed at almost every party ive ever been to in canada, and i have yet to see it here.
    and whats really shocking is Sweden prudence shall we say about drug use. its a an actual taboo in this country! honestly, i dont mind it either, i prefer it this way as well.

    dont even get me started on potato chips!! i cant believe i havent seen a single Old-Dutch chips bag anywhere.. :*( their chips taste funny here. not as "fatty" as our Western ones! D:

  40. I think just about anyone coming here around college age tends to be shocked by the attitude towards drugs. maybe not a bad thing, but it is definitely different that the US.

  41. While marijuana is a bit uncommon cocaine is a popular party drug at least here in Stockholm.

    It's easily accessed and a lot more people then you'd think use it. :)

  42. @STHLM:

    Depends who you're hanging out with and what socio-economic situation they have.
    I think it would be very entertaining to legalize cocaine and speed here just in order to see how the moral debates would be. Would they be like the weapons debates? "How dare we produce weapons and sell them to other countries when we've been neutral", etc. Likewise, how's cocaine use, or even legal cocaine work with Swedes's self-image: they're so clean and just up there on our moral high horse -- yet they use cocaine, which among recreational drugs, has one of the filthiest and morally corrupted routes on its way to Sweden.

    I also think it would be interesting to discuss why Swedes seem to prefer alcohol and stimulants over psychedelics. It should say a lot about their psychological make-up (working culture, uptightness, lack of interest in exploring inner-life, and their expectations for free time. Or so I think it does and I have plenty of hypotheses about it :D

  43. @STHLM - true, but it seems to only be popular in certain aprts of Stockholm, Stureplan of course being the first that comes to mind.

    @James - I can definitely buy our arguments about the choice of drugs here in Sweden. That marijuana is seen as a hardcore drug yet cocaine is used as a party drug by the fancy people on stureplan still blows my mind.

    But the use of alcohol over everything does suggest a certain working class lifestyle that sometimes seems so entrenched in the culture.

  44. I would say use of cannabis is much more common than you think. Just go to any kiosk or tobacco store - they will have a wide range of rolling papers and probably blunts.

    Walking around Södermalm you see bongs and ashtrays painted with cannabis leafs. Around Medborgarplatsen you find a lot of paraphernalia. I think this has to say something.

    The thing is: it's very taboo. You don't talk about it, simply because people are afraid of getting caught. You can get some pretty harsh penalties for weed in Sweden. People generally only smoke with people they know.

    I think this however is starting to change, 20 years ago shops that sold "High Times" were busted by the police... Today I say that's unthinkable. Younger people are generally much more relaxed about it. Probably because they are more... let's say international.

    I don't use it much myself but I think that the Swedish way of dealing with cannabis actually destroy more for people than a few joints every now and then.

  45. it is horribly taboo. way too much if yu ask me. but I think you're right, the attitude towards it probably makes the situation so much worse than it should be.

  46. well i'm swedish, and maybe i've just happened to be in certain circles, but weed has always been quite common around me. most people i know have at least tried it. then again i'm from down south. it's true that it's kept pretty secretive though.. it's not something you'd discuss with just anyone.

  47. But things are changing! More and more Swedish teenagers smoke marijuana and hashish! This is one of the things that prove how wrong it is to spend most of the budget on prevention instead of care. We have been looking at this strictly as a law problem and not as a public health problem.

    Statistics show that the attitudes among young swedes have changed and also Sweden has a bad track record when it comes to keeping addicts alive. Even though we still spend much more money on prevention and old fashioned methods like the twelve steps I think the changes in attitude and the high death toll shows that change is here.

    Today drug warriors are facing modern and enlightened listeners that question the reasons for moralizing!

  48. I'm an expat American living in Uppsala for almost 2 years now and I have NEVER come across any weed whatsoever. :(

    What some of the others said here is true: Swedes seem to think pot is just as heroin, yet they all get wasted every weekend on Systembolaget booze. Damn I miss California!

  49. "Not having to deal with a bunch of stoned college kids" - how exactly you "have to" deal with stoned people? do they ever come up to you and harass you? just pure existence of you people make me sick. who the f@ck are you to judge others and say what's better for others?

  50. Interesting to note the changes in the US where several states have begun legalize marijuana in some way.

    Also, @anonymous, I'm sorry my pure existence makes you sick. I don't think I said that people shouldn't smoke weed. In fact, I have no problem with people smoking it. I just choose not to and don't like it.