The Dutch government is launching a new legal Cannabis trial in ten cities across the country. The study aims to explore the possibility of replacing the current criminal supply operations, with a legal, government-approved supply chain.
Cannabis has been decriminalised in the Netherlands since the 1970s, leading to millions of tourists flocking to the country every year. Both residents and tourists alike, are permitted to buy and possess up to five grams of Cannabis, without fear of prosecution.
However, the rules around supply are less clear and are often overlooked. According to the law, it is still illegal to grow and supply the drug – unless you are a licensed coffee shop owner, supplying customers within the legal quantities.
Up until now, the majority of coffee shops in the Netherlands have relied on the illegal Cannabis market. The Dutch government is hoping to change this, through the experimental study.
Since the law change around Cannabis in 1976, the Dutch government has come under scrutiny for facilitating an illegal market. If the pilot study is successful, the government is expected to consider changing the law to allow legal, government-approved Cannabis growers to supply the market.
During the study, all coffee shops in participating cities across the country will be obliged to replace their current black-market suppliers with government-approved suppliers.
The cities which have been selected as participants are:
Arnhem; Almere; Breda; Groningen; Heerlen; Hellevoetsis; Maastricht; Nijmegen; Tilberg; and Zaanstad – approval still pending.
It is expected that the larger, more popular cities, like Amsterdam and Rotterdam, didn’t sign up to the scheme due to fears about the effects of the study. Amsterdam’s Mayor, Femke Halsema, has expressed fears that a simultaneous ban on all current suppliers in larger cities could be dangerous.
However, it is possible that a change that allows growers to supply Cannabis legally will attract the current illegal growers. Another question posed by both critics and supporters of the trial is: ‘Will there be an added cost?’
Coffee shop owner, Willem, who owns Toermalijn coffee shop in Tilburg, said in an interview with the BBC:
“[A legal market] would be great for us. But if the government make us pay more, then our customers will be charged more, and then they’ll just go to the black market.”
This is a concern that many have had over the legalisation of recreational Cannabis. In Canada, customers have reported paying almost twice as much for government-approved, legal Cannabis.
“Keeping the market price is critical to the success of this experiment,” Willem added.