A coffee shop sign in Amsterdam, Source: Depositphotos

From toleration to regulation: Netherlands to launch a weed experiment

From toleration to regulation: Netherlands to launch a weed experiment

This could completely transform the way cannabis culture is handled in the country

A four-to-five-year pilot project, managed by the Dutch government, will seek to find out whether the production and supply of cannabis on a national level can be effectively and safely regulated.

Many people are under the impression that recreational marijuana is legal in the Netherlands and has been so for many years. Hollywood stoner movies have built entire plots around that premise even.

Amsterdam’s coffee shops have become the stuff of legend and helped fuel the image of the Low Country away from a land of cheese and wooden clogs into something progressive that other societies can only aspire to imitate. Yet, the reality is that these establishments have been operating under a policy of tolerance, which was first introduced in the distant 1967, as a way of keeping light drug use cordoned off in certain areas.

The issue of how to properly regulate the supply of those coffee shops, however, has long simmered in the country, citing concerns with public safety and law enforcement, especially with many of the commercial growers located in residential areas. In essence, it is okay to smoke weed in a coffee shop, but where that weed came from and the impact of this process on the local communities remained murky at best.

Amsterdam offers up one of its districts for the test

The Netherlands adopted the Coffee Shop Chain Act in 2020, which lays the base for preparing the ground for an experimental phase, starting in 2024. The pilot project seeks to find out whether a closed-loop production and supply chain can be established and thus replace the tolerance policy with something that the authorities can have more control over going forward. And to do it without disrupting the positive effects of the culture that has sprung up around that industry.

In the experiment, coffee shops will sell regulated, quality-controlled cannabis. Selected producers will grow the cannabis. The experiment will show the effects of this on societal matters such as crime, safety and health.

The City of Amsterdam, for instance, is proposing 10 coffee shops in its Oost district to be part of the national experiment.

Other municipalities participating are Groningen, Almere, Arnhem, Nijmegen, Zaanstad, Hellevoetsluis, Breda, Tilburg, Maastricht and Heerlen.



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