You might be thinking, “Wait, isn’t cannabis already legal in the Netherlands?” That’s a difficult question to answer, seeing as the Dutch might have one of the most complex drug policies on the planet. Having lived all of my life just a mere 30 minutes away from Amsterdam I can hopefully describe what it’s like in understandable terms.
The famous coffeeshops
Let’s start with what has built a notable reputation for Amsterdam; coffeeshops. Technically the sale of cannabis is illegal, but if it happens within certain guidelines it is tolerated. Meaning that although technically illegal, there won’t be any hindrance by law enforcement.
The same principle applies to users of cannabis, all you have to do while toking up is not be a minor, not have more than 5 grams on you and don’t smoke in places it’s not allowed.
Sounds pretty good right? It is, except for one very important part. Growers are not tolerated by law, and because of this law enforcement is spending a major part of their budget raiding grow operations. And the penalties aren’t minor either – criminal records and asset seizures are sadly all too common stories.
Where do the coffeeshops get their weed?
This has always been a sensitive topic for both coffee shops and politicians, because of the way growers have to operate the coffeeshops get weed at the only place they can buy weed; the black market. Which in turn does not only make this a problem for growers but also for users.
Unlike legal states in the US, it’s very hard to find cannabis with tested cannabinoid content here? But that isn’t the biggest problem.
That would be pesticides. With the black markets comes a blind spot regarding how those buds were produced. And the risk of police raids resulting in prison time makes it so some growers will do anything to protect their investment.
This problem is in fact so big, a recent scientific research paper from the ministry of environment and health has shown that over 90 percent of cannabis had pesticides on them. And although the research concluded no significant health risk the standards used were meant for herbal medicines, which are consumed orally. Not smoked or vaporized.
This, however, shouldn’t scare you all too much if you are planning a trip to Amsterdam in the foreseeable future, but this does raise some concern for medical patients who depend on coffee shops for their medication.
Politics are finally catching up
Luckily this might chance rather sooner than later. After 50 years of a semi-prohibition like legal situation, a bill has finally passed the first step to adoption.
The bill wouldn’t make growing legal, but allow commercial growers to be able to receive recognition from the state and be granted an exception from the drug law.
It would be tolerated in a similar way as coffee shops, and while this isn’t the first time the government has tried passing a bill regulating the cultivation of cannabis it is the first time it has passed the initial stages of approval.
Work still needs to be done
Now the only thing this bill still has to do is pass through “deeerstekamer” which basically consists of a smaller group of politicians (75 seats compared to the 150 of “detweedekamer” who creates the laws) where they will vote for its final approval.
And although the “eerstekamer” is notably more right-wing than the “tweedekamer”, left-wing parties will probably use different laws as a trading chip for cannabis. Meaning that for the first time since prohibition, Holland has a real shot at legalizing.
Let’s hope Holland will once again join the forward movement into cannabis legalization.