Warsaw might conjure up images of World War II ghettos and bombed out buildings, but the city has re-grown, and a few pot seeds apparently took root too.
While it doesn’t enjoy the same reputation as a party hotspot that its neighbour Prague, Czech Republic, does, and despite fairly strict drug laws, smoking abounds in this former Soviet Bloc city.
Anka, a local studying at a vocational school, finds plenty of time to squeeze concerts, pubs and discos that are liberally sprinkled around the city into her busy schedule.
“At weekends I try to attend anything up to three events,” she said. “I often smoke hash and marijuana — they’re as common as beer in the company I keep.”
While the Polish drug scene is alive and well, the Polish government has revamped its once liberal laws and is doing its best to pull the plug on even recreational use. The parliament recently passed laws banning possession of all soft drugs, even in small amounts obviously intended only for personal use.
The U.S. State Department reports that “penalties for possession, use, or dealing in illegal drugs are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.”
Despite the restrictions, pot and hash are easy to find.
“On a walk through some Warsaw suburbs I saw what looked and smelt suspiciously like marijuana growing freely in the hedgerows,” said Richard, an American who lives in Warsaw.
The homegrown marijuana is of pretty high quality skunk and orange and runs about $8 to $10 per gram or $65 for 10 grams. Hash is harder to find, since most of it is imported instead of produced locally. Black Afghan hash is about $10 to $12 per gram, when you can find it.
In line with the home-grown pot itself, the easiest places to find it are where locals hang out.
“It is easiest to get everywhere,” said Niall, from Scotland. “School, clubs, friends, neighbourhoods.”
If you’re having a hard time meeting locals, head for the University district or the Palace of Culture near the main train station. Both locations are filled with both dealers and tokers who might be willing to share a small hit with a visitor.
“On the East side of Palace of Culture there is a big tent where they serve cheap beer, play great music and best — you can smoke whatever you want,” said a visitor in Warsaw going by the nickname Hemmy. “When the cops come, just throw away your “cigarette” and say what? It must’ve been someone in the park! ”There is a great drumming scene too.”
Another location where pot and hash can be found among piles of junk, fake antiques and the occasional gun is the flea market at Stadion Dziesieciolecia, arguably the largest in Europe.
“There are more than 10,000 stands where you can buy almost anything. They even used to sell weapons!” said a tourist from Denmark. “People come from not only Poland, but from the whole eastern Europe – especially the old Soviet republics — to sell clothes, food, caviar, music, handyman tools and all kinds of electric equipment.”
Once you’ve loaded up on some ganga and developed a serious case of the munchies, hit up the little Vietnamese food stands huddled around Plac Konstitucji, which serve almost identical but edible generic Asian takeout.
When heading out after hours, take some pains to dodge the Red Light District and the main train station where pickpockets tend to congregate.
“We wandered by accident into an area of huts masquerading as shops between Zielna and Marshall Street,” said Drew from the United States. “All seemed to be involved in either the sex industry or armaments trade. I’ve come across the sex industry in many places, but nothing like this.”
Instead, head out for a night of clubbing or pub-crawling.
Cul de Sac (ul. Foksal 2) is lodged in an imposing building and bolstered by the comfortable and faintly decadent leather couches and mellow atmosphere inside. Ground Zero (ul. Wspolna 62) is a converted domed bomb shelter with surprisingly good Mexican food next door at the Warsaw Tortilla Factory.
“There are plenty of nightclubs in Warsaw,” said local Radzio. “You may not be let in if you are under 18 though, and if you are wearing sportswear.”
And by the end of a day of smoking, drinking and general partying, just be sure you know the way home.
“Remember to always carry the name of the street in which you are staying. It may be unpronounceable and you may need it for the taxi driver,” said one American visitor who got lost with her brother. “He got a little drunk and was in no fit state to tell the taxi driver his address. Big sis had to step in and get us back to some unpronounceable street with an amazing combination of “szcs’ in the name.”