The Netherlands - by Mr. Kaj Hollemans (KH Legal Advice) (columns KHLA).
On March 30, 2022, the cabinet has Letter to Parliament announced that the closed coffee shop chain experiment, better known as the cannabis trial, cannot start before the second quarter of 2023, because "the quantity, quality and diversity of the hemp and hashish produced is expected to be sufficient to fully support the participating coffee shops." and to be able to supply them on a permanent basis.”
Illegal cannabis market
According to the Cabinet, if the experiment is started before the supply meets these conditions, there is a risk “that the coffee shops' stocks will run out, prices will rise extremely or consumers will be dissatisfied with the new supply. With the risk that consumers will turn to the illegal market.”
I find that last comment particularly odd. Consumers have been turning to the illegal market for more than 40 years: the tolerated coffee shops. Because although they are tolerated, all coffee shops in the Netherlands are illegal. They act in violation of the Opium Act. The whole set-up of the experiment is rather strange in that regard, because soon the coffee shops in 11 municipalities will only be allowed to sell cannabis from licensed, legal growers, while the coffee shops in the other municipalities 91 municipalities continue to sell cannabis from illegal growers.
But that risk has apparently been factored in. Just like the new delay by the way. Because according to the cabinet, this delay is part of the experiment. Both ministers note without embarrassment that “identifying and solving the challenges and problems during the preparation is part of the experiment. It provides valuable insights into the purpose of the experiment, how to achieve a closed coffee shop chain with quality-controlled hemp and hashish.” What do we need an experiment for then, I wonder?
Where other countries succeed in fully legalizing the cultivation and distribution of cannabis within a few years, the Netherlands is not even able to organize a small part of the cannabis cultivation. The national government has now been preparing an experiment for 5 years, which was originally supposed to last 4 years. There is a timeline, an Web site, a brochure, a whole ride on conditions, laid down in laws and regulations, but there is no plant in the ground yet. The growers selected by the government have problems getting a location or financing,
because the banks are afraid of being sued for aiding money laundering or financing terrorism. Rather, I suspect that the banks are afraid that their funding will go up in smoke because at this rate it is becoming increasingly difficult to recoup investments, and that they are hiding behind the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Prevention Act, but that's beside the point.
De mayors of two municipalities participating in the experiment articulate the frustration of the parties involved is best.
Mayor Weterings (Tilburg) rightly wonders how much you can still delay. According to the mayor, it was originally intended that the first experiences with legal cultivation could be included in the formation. “Nothing has come of that. This delay is another disappointment.”
Mayor Depla (Breda) believes that the trial should be started quickly or that legislation should immediately be introduced, whereby the cultivation of cannabis should be legalized. “It does take a very long time. Speed has to be made. How much time do we lose? Maybe we should just take the final step towards legalization and skip that trial. More and more countries have now gained plenty of experience with legal cannabis cultivation.”
From the very beginning, various political parties, including coalition parties VVD, CDA and CU, are doing everything they can to prevent the experiment from succeeding. Only D66 still likes it and keeps the courage in it. In the meantime, Dutch consumers will simply turn to the illegal market in the coming year: the tolerated coffee shops. That's the real experiment. And that has been successful for a long time.