Four-year experiment will allow 79 coffee shops to legally purchase pot from government-approved growers
Who would have thought one of the countries most associated with weed would have the hardest time trying to regulate it?
The Netherlands has long been a tourist attraction for the wide availability of cannabis in the country’s coffee shops, despite the fact that the drug is not legal. The possession and sale of small amounts of marijuana has been decriminalized, however, and authorities generally look the other way when edibles are served up alongside coffee.
All that may change as the government embarks on a four-year pilot project early next year that will allow coffee shops in 10 regions in the country to source cannabis from a list of 10 state-approved growers. Store operators currently rely on the black market to meet demand, but the absence of regulation has resulted in a patchwork system that delivers questionable products from questionable sources.
“Nobody can explain the logic of the current system,” Breda mayor Paul Depla told POLITICO.
Not everyone is happy with the experiment, and Amsterdam — home to almost one-third of the country’s coffee shops — won’t be taking part. Workers in the city are wary that being forced to use a pre-determined set of suppliers risks shrinking supply and giving large companies control over the industry.
But it’s also the only way to help consumers understand what they are getting themselves into when they purchase a brownie with their java, Depla said.
“If you buy a tomato, you know everything about how it’s produced,” he said. “But for cannabis, it’s a big question mark.”
Seventy-nine coffee shops will take part in the experiment, which will also include government-required labels that list the amount of THC and CBD in all marijuana products sold.
The experiment is the best way to reform the system, said André Knottnerus, a researcher who will oversee the process. Knottnerus said the information it yields will assist the development of future policy.
“In this societal and political debate, it is a very important step to get more methods and more experience, and then decide (what) the final decision for next steps would be,” he said.
Joost Kros, a Dutch sales manager at Greenlane, an American company that distributes to dispensaries and smoke shops, said any reform should include the supply of small growers and home grows if the Netherlands hopes to restore its diminished standing as premier pot destination.
“Ten, 15 years ago, we were ahead of everyone — but not anymore,” Kros said, explaining that a visit to a U.S. dispensary opened his eyes to the level of strain information the Netherlands is lacking. “What are we doing in Holland?”
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Written by David Yasvinski