The Netherlands is laying the groundwork for becoming the first country in Europe to allow commercial production of marijuana for adults - although the program will initially be seen as an experiment.
According to the Dutch weed plan, a limited number of companies would be allowed to grow cannabis legally in order to supply coffee shops in the country that would in turn sell the products to consumers. While the Dutch authorities, under certain conditions, tolerate the sale of recreational cannabis in such stores, cultivation and wholesale for that market remain completely illegal.
The government is trying to tackle this contradiction with the closed-chain experiment or the weed experiment. Kaj Hollemans, a drug policy advisor in the Netherlands, told Marijuana Business Daily: “While applications for a license are only possible in 2020, municipalities and companies interested in one of the maximum 10 licenses should prepare now. The application procedure will not be easy. ”
Hollemans said of the requirements: “Companies must be located in the Netherlands. They must have a business plan. Furthermore, companies are not only responsible for cultivation, but also for quality control, packaging, transport, etc. ”
Other European countries are also continuing with measures that can legalize recreational marijuana:
- Switzerland is preparing a limited pilot project.
- Luxembourg promised full legalization.
- Malta is debating rules for an adult use market.
Timeline weed experiment timeline
The Dutch Senate approved the experiment in January, but the implementation is not forthcoming. The authorities are planning that the law will enter into force in January 2020. The experiment would allow a minimum of six and no more than 10 Dutch municipalities to participate.
The Netherlands currently has 573 coffee shops spread over the 103 municipalities that allow this. Municipalities interested in participating in the experiment have until June 10 to formally express their interest and to apply. Once the law is in effect, growers still have plenty of hoops to jump through before growing and selling begins.
- Interested potential growers must apply for a permit and be selected. After selection, a preparatory phase takes place to build up sufficient stock - a period that can last a year or more.
- After the preparation phase, a transition period of six weeks will be set up to allow coffee shops to switch from illegal suppliers to legal providers.
- The experiment lasts four years, but can be extended for another year and a half. A committee is responsible for an independent assessment at the end of the experiment.
Once the experiment is over, the country returns to the situation before the test period began, meaning that all coffee shops must go back to their illegal cannabis suppliers unless the law changes.
Requirements and limitations
In addition to other requirements, all coffee shops in the municipalities that register must participate in the experiment and only obtain their offer from regulated growers. In other words, coffee shops will have to stop selling products from illegal sources that they have relied on for years.
The government wants to be able to fully evaluate the results of the experiment in the municipalities that participate. By having coffee shops in participating municipalities buy from both legal and illegal sources, the results would be affected.
This means that it is unlikely that large municipalities with many coffee shops, such as Amsterdam or Rotterdam, will join. Municipalities bordering Belgium or Germany can apply to participate, but sales to non-residents in those areas remain prohibited. Coffee shops could have a maximum stock and weekly turnover in the weed trial, much greater than the current tolerance policy of just 500 grams.
Stagnation means decline
Some local analysts are concerned about the plan's timing and scope. Juriën Koster, a cannabis consultant based in the Netherlands, said the first harvests will not take place before the next general election, scheduled for March 2021.
"These delays indicate that this administration is pushing the issue forward for the next administration to decide how to proceed," he told Marijuana Business Daily. Hollemans predicts that “during the experiment - which could last until 2027 - cannabis reform in the Netherlands will come to a halt. In the meantime, other countries can make progress and Dutch knowledge and expertise will continue to emigrate - for example to Canada. ”
He believes that this experiment, as a political compromise, could be a good solution. “But for the parties involved - such as the coffee shops, consumers and especially the Dutch agricultural and horticultural sector - it is far from ideal, especially when you consider the missed opportunities for innovation or product development. "This experiment is too little, too late," he added.
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