While visiting Amsterdam I enjoyed speaking to some of the locals. The first thing everybody asks if you tell them you're from San Francisco is whether you really live in the city. When I tell them that, yes, I live and work in San Francisco they are always impressed. I'm not sure why that is.
Inevitably, the person mentions that San Francisco is a lot like Amsterdam in that the city is an open, liberal place. It's true that San Francisco is probably the most open, liberal city in the U.S. but make no mistake San Francisco is not like Amsterdam.
San Francisco is part of a society whose values are based on Puritanism. Like it or not, Puritanism is one of the foundations on which the U.S. was built. Everything from the infamous Puritan work ethic that only gives us 2 weeks of vacation a year to our closed-minded view of pleasure and sexuality (and our rebellions against those views) permeate our daily society. Most Americans don't seem to realize how incredibly uptight we are.
I had a conversation with a couple of people when I returned and they insisted that San Francisco is as opened minded as Amsterdam. One of them pointed out that people smoke pot on the street in San Francisco all the time and those people never get arrested. I have no idea if this is true but it's completely beside the point. The fact is, there are no "coffee shops" in San Francisco where you can walk in and choose from a whole menu of pot and hash to smoke. These coffee shops feature early morning hours, food and drink, some have pool tables and other minor entertainments, and all of them offer free WiFi. Lastly, there are no girls in the window. There's no city designated Red Light District here in San Francisco.
Is this a good thing? That there are no "coffee shops" in San Francisco and no legalized version of the Red Light District? Maybe, maybe not, but I'm pretty certain that such things will never be made legal here.