Everyone knows the Netherlands (especially the City of Amsterdam) as a pot capital of the world. Ironically, cannabis sales in the Netherlands are illegal. The country has decriminalized its use and possession to a certain extent, but law enforcement may impose a fine or misdemeanor upon a person in possession of marijuana-based drugs. However, the government has made it clear that prosecution of cannabis possession, in particular, is the lowest enforcement priority and there will likely never be a criminal investigation over cannabis prosecution.
Because of this, cannabis coffee-shops (i.e., retailers) have proliferated in the Netherlands. The government allows cannabis coffee-shops to sell cannabis to anyone as long as they follow certain regulations. Specifically, coffee-shops are not allowed to: (1) advertise, (2) trade in hard drugs, (3) sell drugs to minors, or (4) sell drugs in quantities of more than 30 grams. They are also responsible for preventing any public disturbance or nuisance.
Although there is a system in place for selling cannabis in the Netherlands, the cultivation and producing of cannabis is illegal. Retailers must rely on the black market to supply their stores. In order to combat the growth of the illegal market, the Netherlands’ government introduced a proposal that would allow certain Dutch states to legally produce and sell cannabis for a four-year trial period. This regulated supply chain for cannabis would allow certain suppliers to cultivate cannabis without facing arrest. This program will also implement government oversight into the cannabis market, requiring product testing and proper packaging. European governments are hoping this program can give lawmakers a clear understanding of what a legal cannabis market might look like in their nations. The bill is scheduled for a vote of Parliament this summer.
Additionally, the Netherlands has moved towards providing medical cannabis for patients. Under the proposed legislation, patients will be able to go to a designated pharmacy with their prescription and obtain cannabis. The government is also planning on working with designated cultivators to grow “pharmaceutical-grade cannabis” for qualifying patients.
All in all, things are moving forward on legalization. On the other hand, public cannabis consumption recently has seen its first restriction in The Netherlands. The Hague has become the first Dutch city to ban cannabis consumption in public. This ban has come as a response to the numerous complaints of residents and visitors of unwanted cannabis smoke. Coffee shops will have to monitor their odors to ensure that on-site consumption is not causing an unwanted nuisance. Certain legislators have also pushed for initiatives that would only allow for Dutch residents to purchase cannabis and cannabis products. However, those have mostly been abandoned.
The Netherlands’ cannabis policy is in flux due to the semi-legal market. If the pilot program succeeds and the Netherlands moves towards legalization, the Country could become one of the first legal cannabis countries. As an international law firm with offices in nearby Spain, we are always keeping tabs on new cannabis markets that arise in around the world. Although the Netherlands seems to be a “pot haven,” many changes still need to be made to have a completely legalized system.