Dutch to experiment with legal cannabis supplies
The policy is part of a trial aimed at tackling the black market.
In the Netherlands the distribution, supply and production of cannabis is illegal but coffee shops are not prosecuted for selling it, allowing criminal enterprises to flourish.
The new policy is aimed at making the industry more transparent and to free up police officers to focus on other crimes.
Cannabis is therefore bought illegally and is often of unknown quality and potency.
From 2021, cafes in 10 cities will receive a legal supply of tested cannabis as part of a four-year pilot policy.
The cities, which still need approval, are Arnhem, Almere, Breda, Groningen, Heerlen, Hellevoetsluis, Maastricht, Nijmegen, Tilburg and Zaanstad.
The drug is sold openly in 573 coffee shops in 103 of the 380 Dutch municipalities, according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), a decentralised agency of the European Union.
The Dutch finance minister receives a sizeable slice of the cafes’ profits.
Willem, who runs the Toermalijn coffee shop in the southern city of Tilburg, welcomed the quantity and quality control.
“But if the government make us pay more, then our customers will be charged more, and then they’ll just go to the black market,” he added.
“Keeping the market price is critical to the success of this experiment.”
The Hague, Amsterdam, Utrecht and Rotterdam will not take part, primarily over the demand that all cafes in the test locations must abandon their existing illegal supplies.
Amsterdam has nearly 170 cannabis cafes. The city’s mayor, Femke Halsema, said last year that it would be dangerous if all those businesses abandoned their suppliers simultaneously.
The Dutch authorities declared their intention to permit the four-year experiment on the legal supply of cannabis to coffee shops in 2017.
It aims to examine the impact of the policy on health, crime, safety and nuisance.
Derrick Bergman of the VOC group that promotes cannabis said the trial was “way too little, way too late”.
“Coffee shops have been around since 1976, the government should have acted before to stop the problems we see today – the criminality, lack of quality control,” he said.
“The four coalition parties are at odds, Christian parties want a total ban, liberals want total legalisation. In the long run it will hopefully lead to a more sensible, pragmatic approach across the country.”
Amsterdam. Cannabis is very easy to grow at home. Picture credit: PXHere