By David Bienenstock

The 17th Annual Cannabis Cup is taking place November 21-25 in Amsterdam. HIGH TIMES will have complete Cup coverage in a future issue, of course, but by that time it will be too late to help this year’s judges survive what can be a “kinda” grueling experience. That’s why we compiled this exclusive guide to survival strategies for stoners in Amsterdam.

Drink Water
You should be thirsty for adventure at the Cannabis Cup, not water. This is not just for your comfort—it’s for your safety. You may be wondering at what point, exactly, a common case of cottonmouth morphs from a cannabis-consumption inconvenience into a life-threatening emergency? It’s hard to say (especially because your tongue is so dry), but our best research indicates that this transformation typically takes place somewhere around hour 32 of the Cup. And dehydration this severe does far more than just de-dampen the mouth: It impairs thinking, and, worst of all, it totally kills your buzz.

Often you will hear about “meltdowns” in Amsterdam—poor, lost souls who went five tokes over the line and passed out sitting up in a coffeeshop. But “meltdown” here, with its implication of abundant water, is a misnomer. The fact is, most “Amsterdamage” occurs when people are not drinking enough of the good stuff, and I don’t mean Cristal, Dom Perignon, or even the domestic, local beer called Heineken. I’m talking about good old water, preferably not from one of the canals. HIGH TIMES recommends a ratio of 150 ounces of water for every ounce of cannabis consumed, or roughly one half glass per joint for optimal performance. Your results may vary.

Smoke With Your Head, Not Over It
One of the great things separating pot smokers from drinkers is that, generally, we’re not always going on and on about how much we inhale, in the macho manner that boozers describe their latest alcoholic debauchery. Amsterdam, however, tends to be the exception to this reefer rule. Finally allowed out into polite society, we forget how to behave ourselves, and our red eyes grow larger than our lungs. It’s a shame, because Amsterdam is a beautiful city, and you’re missing out on a lot if you’re only looking at it through half-closed lids.

There are over 25 super-potent varieties of cannabis entered into this year’s Cup, which takes place over five days: That means that the dutiful judge must sample a new strain every four hours (or less, if he or she plans to sleep). It’s a challenge and a joy any way you roll it, but just remember to pace yourself, and you’ll enjoy it all the more. And if you see me sitting next to you at the coffeeshop, don’t tell me how much you smoked the night before.

Take a Sauna Break
Most of the advice so far has come off a little preachy. I admit that, and I apologize, but it’s been for your own good. Scheduling a sauna break is also for your own good, and has the added benefit of being a lot more fun than drinking water—so go get yourself into the steam, sweat it on out, and then treat yourself to a massage afterward. Impurities will be released, jet lag will be reversed, and you needn’t feel guilty about the pleasure, because it’s “good for you.” Plus a) you’re on vacation and b) you’re in Amsterdam, for goodness sake. Live a little. You can even get a happy ending legally (ladies too!). Best of all, the first joint you smoke after leaving the spa will feel like the first one after getting off the plane, and you should be good to go until the Cup’s closing ceremony. Repeat as necessary

Stay Out of the Bike Lane
They love bicycles in Amsterdam, and you should love them too—they’re quiet, they reduce traffic and save fossil fuels, they improve fitness and the environment, and they’re fun to ride. You can see the town and have a great time by renting a bike and taking your own tour of the city. What’s not fun, however, is wandering into the bike lane on foot without realizing it, and then getting creamed. Trust me, it’s no fun at all. Not that I learned the hard way, but I did.

Standing in the bike lane is a potential pitfall for every traveler in Amsterdam, but it’s a particular problem for the coffeeshop crowd, God bless us. Sometimes we walk around with our heads in the clouds, which is all well and good, but first, get out of the bike lane! Seriously, you’re gonna get hit!

Avoid Tobacco Mixes
Odds are, if you live in the United States, you can’t get good hash with any regularity. It’s getting easier to make your own, but making your own is still a far cry from sampling the international delights offered up in Amsterdam. The problem is, many coffeshops sell their hash in pre-rolled tobacco cigarettes. Don’t buy them, for two very good reasons.

1) If you don’t normally smoke tobacco, you will turn the deep green of a late-summer sativa before ever finishing your “blend.” It will be a waste of good hash, as well as your lunch.

2) If you do regularly smoke tobacco, you should stop immediately. I know it’s legal, even in the U.S., but it’s also addictive and deadly. Not like cannabis, which is illegal in the U.S., which is one of the reasons you came to Amsterdam in the first place. Go figure, huh?

Use the Bud-dy System
No matter what kind of trouble you’re getting into in Amsterdam, odds are it will be a lot easier to get out of if you’re rolling with a friend. Two “heads” are better than one, after all, whether you’re trying to remember the name of your hotel, figuring out a way to order pancakes (a local treat), puzzling over the menu at your first coffeeshop, or trying to raise money for bail. You and your buddy can also take turns reminding each other why you started laughing in the first place.