The Dutch Cannabis Kerfuffle

The Dutch Cannabis Kerfuffle

A handful of people associate the Dutch with recreational cannabis and coffee houses. However, this is not entirely true. Cannabis is technically prohibited in the Netherlands. Additionally, Holland was slated to issue licenses to coffeeshops to offer recreational cannabis earlier this year. Summarily, it went over terribly. Here’s why.

History of cannabis in the Netherlands

Lawmakers outlawed cannabis in the Netherlands back in 1928. Ironically, this was around the same time as the ‘Reefer Madness’ era. Some historians believe that lawmakers outlawed cannabis around 1913 in the Netherlands. If correct, it would mark one of the earliest acts of cannabis prohibition in the world. The laws prohibiting cannabis in 1928 focused more on import and export. Theoretically, the bans caused a spike in underground cannabis cultivators in the Netherlands (yielding lawmakers to act in 1928.) 

During that time, cannabis prohibition was at an all-time high. It would not be until the 1970s when lawmakers in the Netherlands began loosening their grip on cannabis cultivation and possession. Individuals possessing an ounce or less of cannabis (28 grams) were cited with a misdemeanor. This loosening on cannabis in the 70s makes the Netherlands one of the earliest countries to perform such a pioneering feat.

Exploring Dutch coffeeshops

Even if you have never been to the Netherlands, the chances are you about their weed and coffeeshops. However, these coffeeshops are not entirely above the board. Coffeeshops are not legal in the Netherlands. Instead, coffeeshops are ‘tolerated’ by law enforcement. Here’s what expected of coffeeshops in the Netherlands:

  • No sales to anyone under the age of 18
  • Ads related to the sales of cannabis are prohibited.
  • No more than 5 grams of cannabis can be purchased in one sitting.
  • No sales of “hard drugs.”
  • Coffeeshops cannot maintain a common nuisance or disturbance.

Coffeeshops that fail to adhere to the rules mentioned above are subject to fines, forced closures, and related business license revocation.

New attempts on cannabis legalization in the Netherlands

In July of 2020, the Dutch government held an open forum for companies interested in obtaining only ten offered licenses to grow cannabis for coffee shop consumption. The support for cannabis cultivation was slated for distribution at the beginning of this year. Moreover, the rights were expected to last for the next five years. The licenses also covered cultivation for nearly 80 coffeeshops located in 5 towns.

The multitude of problems

As great as the licenses mentioned above sound, the Dutch Government completely fumbled the opportunity. The amounts of permits available for cities outside of Amsterdam (obviously) were minuscule. Moreover, the open callout to interested coffeeshops birthed a variety of ‘not in my backyard’ sentiments. The callout was the catalyst to cannabis cultivators and coffeeshops jumping the gun on the license. Citizens also blame the issue on the consultants used for this entire process. Summarily, the cannabis consultants conferred with on the matter of coffeeshop cannabis legalization consisted of predominantly out-of-touch, old-aged white men from the United States. It is complicated to consult with an agent who simply does not understand your market. The Dutch were better off conferring with Germany on the matter of cannabis legalization in coffeeshops.

So, what now in Amsterdam?

The licenses for cannabis sales in coffee shops are now on the backburner. Despite this, cannabis legalization is imminent in the Netherlands. Dutch authorities still tolerate coffeeshops. Furthermore, Dutch lawmakers are not oblivious to their biggest export of the last few decades. Dutch lawmakers know that their recent attempt to legalize cannabis in coffeeshops was a downright disaster. It is now back to the drawing board. Let’s brew a cup of Kona coffee with a side of Lemon Haze and a scone while the Dutch attempt to sort the issue out.

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