In 1970 Henk de Vries and a group of his friends visit the ‘Woodstock’ of the Netherlands at Kralingsebos. Henk was in charge of bringing something to smoke, which he did and divided amongst his friends. Within hours, to his amazement, he was offered to buy the weed he shared. This infuriated him and thought what they can do, he can do better. Henk drove back to Amsterdam to get more, much more than original and once back at the festival he found himself a nice spot near a little bridge to sit and sell his cannabis stuffed in matchboxes (which he had picked up along the way). Within a short time two police officers confronted Henk and were at the point to arrest him, when the festival organiser Koos Zwart got involved and after debate overruled the police, even so much that he announced to the crowds via PA that Henk was sitting near the little bridge with Cannabis for sale. This made Henk the first ‘legalised’ cannabis dealer of the Netherlands and hereby sowed the seed to grow this action into an empire.
When Henk returns from Germany in 1974, he noticed that his neighbourhood had deteriorated, hard drugs had taken control of the streets, his neighbours and friends. Henk decided to take action and threw all the inventory from the sexshop he had inherited from his father in the canal. With the space now available he created a safe location for neighbours, friends and the occasional tourist to buy, chill and smoke some herb. A living room for all to enjoy. A strict policy was held to keep hard drugs outside the door. The use of – what we call cannabis – was illegal in the Netherlands at this time and Henk became the focus of the local police department, raid upon raid took place during the first years of operating in the basement of where The Bulldog still is. Henk kept a promise to the visitors that were taken to the police station, after thirty minutes of being held they could return and receive replacement of what the police had taken from them. This eventually lead to great frustration of the police that the first steps towards the blind eye policy was taken. Henk’s fight was successful, you break the rules to create the rules.
According to Derrick Bergman, chairman of the Alliance for the lifting of the ban on Cannabis (VOC), “As founder of The Bulldog, Henk de Vries is not only a living legend but also the owner of the first global cannabis brand in modern history. Since he started in 1974 in a basement on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal in Amsterdam with The Bulldog, his brainchild has grown into an empire with global fame. Like no other, Henk de Vries put his stamp on the phenomenon that according to Professor Egbert Tellegen should have been proclaimed ‘the most important Dutch social innovation of the past half century’: the coffeeshop”.
“I want to create a living room atmosphere. A good vibe, relaxed. A place where people can smoke, talk and feel good. It simply doesn’t get any better than that.”
– Henk de Vries