Smart shops sell legal psychedelics, stimulants, aphrodisiacs, and dietary supplements with intoxicating effects. The term derives from the English “smart drugs”; you can translate it as “legal drugs.”
Depending on the country, there is a different legal situation; this is why country-specific differences in product range exist.
You can roughly divide the range of smart shops into the following product groups:
- Natural Psychedelics
- Herbal energizers
These include energy substances such as guarana, kratom, betel, and kola nuts, relaxants like Skullcap, Valerian, and aphrodisiacs like Maca or Gingko Biloba. In addition, psychedelic cacti containing mescaline (peyote, Peruvian thorn cactus) or herbal ecstasy are part of the range in many smart shops.
Smart shop vs. head shop
In most countries, there are head shops or grow shops instead of smart shops. The difference between the two stores is that head shops do not sell psychoactive substances. You can only buy drug-related goods, i.e., accessories for consumption (such as grinders, vaporizers, and pipes) there. There are more smart shops in the Netherlands than head shops because smart drugs are legal there.
They are usually naturally occurring drugs in nature (no synthetic substances). One did not include the respective intoxicants for sale in smart shops (depending on the country and the legal situation, there are significant differences) in the so-called Narcotics Act due to their low distribution. You can find substances often in smart shops that one cannot ban due to poorly worded legal provisions.
If the distribution of the mind- and mood-altering substances available in shops has visibly increased, the drug in question is often subsequently included in the Narcotics Act.
The Netherlands has the highest number of smart shops in all of Europe. A few years ago, it was even allowed to sell synthetic drugs such as 2C-B and 4MTA alongside natural substances – nowadays, it is forbidden.
Since the country signed the International Convention on Drugs, drug use has been more tolerant and seen as more of a health issue, like alcohol abuse or tobacco smoking. Addiction is seen as a much broader problem, pointing to further dependency on prescription drugs, gambling, or video games.
The Dutch policy of condoning petty drug offenses and not enforcing some of the existing laws regarding selling small amounts of cannabis is unique compared to other countries.