Netherlands to kick off legal Cannabis sale pilot program

Netherlands to kick off legal Cannabis sale pilot program

The Netherlands plans to launch a pilot program to experiment with the legal sale of cannabis by the end of this year.

Although the country is known to be the European heaven for cannabis users due to its tolerance policy towards the so-called “soft drugs,” the cultivation of cannabis is still illegal in the Netherlands. But a pilot program expected to start by the end of this year could pave the way toward a full legal sale of cannabis.

The Ministries of Public Health and Justice in the Netherlands announced on February 22 the launch of a preliminary phase of the Wietexperiment (Weed Experiment in English).

This pilot program is set to begin in the fourth quarter of this year, which falls between October and December 2023, and will involve the municipalities of Tilburg and Breda, located in the southern region of the country.

"Together with Minister [of Justice] Yesilgoz-Zegerius, I am committed to making the cannabis experiment successful. I also sense enthusiasm among all participants and am therefore pleased that we can take a first smaller step here even before the official start of the experiment," Health Minister Ernst Kuipers said in a press statement.

Dutch coffee shops are licensed by local councils to sell cannabis products, but they obtain their supply from the illegal market. Therefore, the goal of the experiment is to eliminate this gray area and reduce the associated nuisance and criminal activity.

Under the pilot program, three cannabis growers have been selected to supply legal cannabis to the coffee shops in Tilburg and Breda for a period of up to six months.

Each coffee shop will be permitted to stock up to a maximum of 500 grams of legally grown cannabis. However, the coffee shops will also be allowed to purchase cannabis from their previous illegal suppliers in addition to the official legal growers.

The mayors of Tilburg and Breda will be responsible for enforcing the regulated cannabis that is placed in the coffee shop.

The pilot program will conclude in the first quarter of 2024. After this period, the government will evaluate the results and determine whether all coffee shops in the participating municipalities will be granted permission to sell legal cannabis.

The products sold under the pilot program must comply with the government's quality, labeling, and packaging requirements. However, there will be no limit on THC concentration, and producers will have the freedom to set their own pricing.

The Dutch Senate approved the proposal for the pilot program to sell legal cannabis in 2019. Despite this approval, the program's launch was postponed due to several obstacles, including logistical challenges and growers' difficulties in obtaining a bank account. These challenges arose due to concerns by banks about potential money laundering activities, which led to delays in launching the pilot program, according to Dutch News.

To assess whether the experiment can be launched in the first quarter of 2024 and extend to other cities and towns that enrolled in the pilot, the Ministries will continue to monitor the progress of the growers closely.

A total of ten towns and cities have enrolled in the pilot program.

Amsterdam, which initially decided not to participate in the pilot, has recently expressed interest in participating by proposing one of its seven boroughs for inclusion in the experiment.

Amesterdam's interest in joining the pilot comes after the dutch capital announced a ban on smoking cannabis in the city's famous Red Light District, which is expected to take effect in May 2023.

The Netherlands is the second European country to launch a pilot program to regulate the sale of legal cannabis. Switzerland also initiated a pilot project this year that will last for three years to evaluate the possibility of legalizing cannabis in the country.

However, other European countries, such as Germany and the Czech Republic, have decided to take a more direct path to regulate the sale of cannabis, drafting cannabis legislation without conducting small-scale experiments.

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Region: Netherlands

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