Soft Secrets

Soft Secrets
21 Jul 2012

With a combined circulation of more than one million copies printed annually in eight languages, Soft Secrets is by far the largest and most successful cannabis magazine in the world. The free bi-monthly magazine now appears on almost all continents and the online digital version is downloaded daily by people from around the world. Few know that Soft Secrets began as something of a club magazine of the first grow shop in the world, Positronics in Amsterdam. However, the magazine only began its steady global rise when cannabis entrepreneur Boy Ramsahai bought the publication and hired Cliff Cremer as editor-in-chief. We look back at the history of the now legendary Soft Secrets.


With a combined circulation of more than one million copies printed annually in eight languages, Soft Secrets is by far the largest and most successful cannabis magazine in the world. The free bi-monthly magazine now appears on almost all continents and the online digital version is downloaded daily by people from around the world. Few know that Soft Secrets began as something of a club magazine of the first grow shop in the world, Positronics in Amsterdam. However, the magazine only began its steady global rise when cannabis entrepreneur Boy Ramsahai bought the publication and hired Cliff Cremer as editor-in-chief. We look back at the history of the now legendary Soft Secrets.

With a combined circulation of more than one million copies printed annually in eight languages, Soft Secrets is by far the largest and most successful cannabis magazine in the world. The free bi-monthly magazine now appears on almost all continents and the online digital version is downloaded daily by people from around the world. Few know that Soft Secrets began as something of a club magazine of the first grow shop in the world, Positronics in Amsterdam. However, the magazine only began its steady global rise when cannabis entrepreneur Boy Ramsahai bought the publication and hired Cliff Cremer as editor-in-chief. We look back at the history of the now legendary Soft Secrets.

The legendary pioneers of the international cannabis community (from left to right): Soma, Wernard Bruining, Old Ed and Ed Rosenthal
Amsterdam, 1985. The cultivation of marijuana plants was a very rare activity in Europe at the time. Only a very small group of cannabis pioneers in Amsterdam were doing it, and in particular a group of enthusiastic hobby growers revolving around Wernard Bruining, a hippie and an idealist who opened the first coffee shop in Amsterdam in 1975, the Mellow Yellow (not the Mellow Yellow that currently exists in Amsterdam - ed..). The Dutch government had implemented the infamous “tolerance policy” in the seventies, which legalised the sale of soft drugs. It was an excellent policy, which separated the soft and hard drug markets, so that recreational cannabis users no longer had to rely on the criminal world to acquire marijuana or hashish. The tolerance policy paved the way for the emergence of the many coffee shops in the Netherlands. However, these shops did of course need to be supplied. In the seventies and eighties, this was done through massive import of marijuana from countries like Colombia and Thailand, and the import of hashish from countries such as Morocco, Lebanon and Afghanistan. As good as the tolerance policy was, it did have one weak point: the so-called "back door” system of coffee shops. In all their wisdom, Dutch politicians decided that coffee shops were allowed to sell marijuana and hashish, but could not buy it.  A strange loophole, which continues to this day. Because coffee shops have to rely on people who are by legal definition ‘criminals’, coffee shops will always be associated with criminality.

Soft Secrets editor-in-chief Cliff Cremer at the Highlife Cup 2011
Wernard Bruining decided that things could be done differently. Home-grown weed is better and safer than imported weed. In 1984 he founded the first grow shop in the world, Positronics in Amsterdam. So-called home-growth slowly but surely starting gaining in popularity among Amsterdam cannabis smokers because the cannabis obtained from home-grown plants is often much better than the garbage that is imported from Thailand and Colombia. Wernard Bruining acquired his knowledge for growing plants at home through close cooperation with Old Ed, a legendary American grower from California who had been engaged in cultivation, refining and crossing of marijuana species since the early seventies. Old Ed began teaching Wernard and his shop Positronics became the first shop in the world to sell items used in the cultivation of marijuana, such as lamps, nutrition and seeds. The success of Positronics exceeded every expectation. With ever-improving techniques, home growers were generally very successful, resulting in a true ‘grow-boom’in the Netherlands, with growers selling their marijuana by the kilo to coffee shops. The cultivation of Sensimilla, marijuana buds without seeds, became the standard for the entire industry. Customers could become members of Positronics and Bruining decided to set up a magazine called Soft Secrets. His wife became editor-in-chief. The magazine looked like a school newspaper and was not very interesting. If you were not an insider at Positronics, you often had no idea of what was going on. Soft Secrets therefore began as an unremarkable club magazine read only by a few dozen people. Grow shop Positronics closed its doors in the nineties. Bruining decided to stop Soft Secrets, also because his wife no longer had time for it.

Old Ed in front of grow shop Positronics in Amsterdam, 1985
In the meantime, a glossy cannabis magazine appeared on the Dutch market in 1994, called High Life. The founder of this highly successful bi-monthly magazine, Boy Ramsahai - wanting to publish another magazine - purchased the name Soft Secrets from Wernard Bruining for a few thousand guilders. As editor-in-chief, he hired Cliff Cremer, a writer and freelance journalist from Amsterdam who previously made High Life for him. Cliff Cremer had clear plans for Soft Secrets. His formula was simple, and came down to just one thing: a magazine for growers by growers. The title was perfectly appropriate, because the ‘cultivation secrets' were not ‘hard secrets’, which no one could know, but soft secrets, which everyone could know. Gladly. After a year Soft Secrets was a great success, partly because the magazine was distributed free in all coffee shops, grow shops and head shops in the Netherlands. Boy Ramsahai then decided it was time to go European-wide. The first Soft Secrets UK appeared in England.  Followed by Soft Secrets France. Then came a Spanish edition, which at first was called La Maria. The magazine has become an instant success wherever it is launched due to its simple formula and the fact that the magazine is free.  In England, the magazine is so successful that grow shops only give the magazine to their best customers, as it would otherwise quickly disappear from the shelves.

Soft Secrets is now published in eight languages, and appears throughout Europe, the United States and Latin America. People around the world have discovered that growing their own marijuana is not only a fun hobby, but also a guarantee for good marijuana. Soft Secrets is their friend in that process, one who gives them the best tips and advice every two months. This is how an obscure club magazine of an Amsterdam grow shop became the largest, most popular and widely read cannabis magazine in the world!

www.softsecrets.nl

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Soft Secrets