The first bags of weed sold legally in the Netherlands on December 15th. Photo:
Despite its famed coffee shops, in the Netherlands, for the last 45 years cannabis has officially been illegal to possess, sell and grow. But things are changing.Since Dec. 15, weed smokers have been buying their first batches of legally grown, legally sold cannabis in 19 shops in two cities, Breda and Tilburg, in the south of the country.It is the start of a four year experiment which by next year will see 10 licensed weed growing farms supply 80 of the country's 550 coffee shops with cannabis flower, hash and ready-rolled spliffs in 11 jurisdictions—including part of Amsterdam.
“It’s a fall of the Berlin Wall moment for European cannabis,” Alastair Moore, a cannabis entrepreneur and founder of The Hanway Company, told VICE News.“What was brave and progressive in the 1980s needed to be updated. Reliance on blackmarket supply created a legal murkiness that tainted ‘good’ actors and limited their ability to operate transparently and live with peace of mind.“Overnight, after years of lobbying, legislation drafting, public tenders, implementation, delays and setbacks of course, the system of control has changed. It has started the clock ticking: five years from now the world of European cannabis will be a very different place.”Dutch consumers will still be able to buy cannabis in coffee shops, albeit now quality-controlled, packaged with health warnings, and legally produced,” said Steve Rolles, senior policy analyst at Transform Drug Policy Foundation.“But it marks a landmark moment in the European drug reform journey. For all the reform being debated and implemented across the continent, this is actually the first time since the prohibition era began that legally produced non-medical cannabis has been made available in the EU.”Since the 1980s, the sale of weed in coffee shops has merely been tolerated, as long as drug users and coffee shops stick to some basic rules. Authorities have turned a blind eye to the unregulated growers who supply each of the country’s 550 weed shops with around half a ton of cannabis each year. Advertisement
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The 10 chosen cannabis growing companies, which have been subjected to stringent background checks, were whittled down from 200 applicants to 50 in 2020, before the final 10 were chosen at random by lottery.“It was quite a surreal experience. I remembered especially the picture of the first customer in Colorado on January 1st, 2014. I wanted to be that person,” said Mauro Picavet, editor-in-chief of Dutch weed website cannabisindustrie.nl, the first customer in the Netherlands to buy legally produced cannabis, at 11am last Friday.“So I stepped up and ordered the RS11 from Aardachtig. The budtender thought I was done and that I just wanted to buy that one gram, but I told him to hold up. I wanted more. I also bought Pink Sandy and Limun Chullo from Aardachtig, Ice Cream Cake from Fyta and Wedding Cake from CanAdelaar. Everyone clapped and I proceeded to the tobacco-free smoking area to sit down and roll a pure joint of RS11. Advertisement Advertisement
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Legalization of Cannabis in the Netherlands
The Netherlands has recently initiated a four-year experiment to legally produce and sell cannabis in select cities, marking a significant shift in the country's approach to cannabis regulation. Here are the key concepts related to this development:
Background of Cannabis Regulation in the Netherlands
- For the past 45 years, cannabis has been officially illegal to possess, sell, and grow in the Netherlands, despite the tolerance of its sale in coffee shops.
- The sale of weed in coffee shops has been tolerated, with authorities turning a blind eye to unregulated growers supplying cannabis to these shops .
Initiation of the Experiment
- Since December 15, 2023, cannabis consumers have been able to purchase legally grown and sold cannabis in 19 shops in two cities, Breda and Tilburg, in the south of the country.
- The experiment involves 10 licensed weed growing farms supplying 80 of the country's 550 coffee shops with cannabis flower, hash, and ready-rolled spliffs in 11 jurisdictions, including part of Amsterdam.
Impact and Implications
- The experiment is considered a landmark moment in the European drug reform journey, as it marks the first time since the prohibition era began that legally produced non-medical cannabis has been made available in the EU.
- The quality-controlled, health-warning packaged, and legally produced cannabis will be available in coffee shops, signifying a significant shift in the regulation of cannabis in the country.
Challenges and Uncertainties
- The experiment is not without uncertainties, including concerns about potential reactions from criminal gangs involved in the cannabis industry and the potential influence of the newly elected far-right party on the trial's outcome.
- The Dutch government aims to strike a balance between protecting public health and ensuring that the legal cannabis product can compete against the black market .
Comparison with North American Approach
- The Dutch weed experiment is viewed as a cautious approach to weed legalization compared to North America, where authorities faced challenges such as massive oversupply in Canada.
- The experiment offers a more European solution for the cannabis question, emphasizing a cautious and sensible approach to cannabis regulation.
In summary, the recent legalization of cannabis in the Netherlands represents a significant shift in the country's approach to cannabis regulation, marking a landmark moment in the European drug reform journey.
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