After 40 years of procrastination and tolerant apathy, it finally looks like the Netherlands is prepared to legalize and regulate cannabis.
As most people are aware, Amsterdam has enjoyed a thriving cannabis “coffeeshop” industry for decades. While the rest of the world was demonizing pot, the Dutch Kingdom was busy solidifying itself as the de facto cannabis capital of the world — a global destination where cannabis enthusiasts can toke-up in peace.
But the existence of these establishments has long been a grey area of the law. Coffeeshops are legally allowed to sell up to five grams of cannabis to anyone 18 or over, but there is no legal method for these cannabis institutions to source their products.
Further to that challenge, establishments are not permitted to store more than 500 grams of pot on the premises at any given time, and cultivators are not allowed to grow more than five plants. These restrictions make running a large marijuana business a challenge to say the least.
This glitch in the system has been coined as the “backdoor problem” in the Netherlands, where the front door dealings are perfectly legal, but the owners break the law to get their products on the shelves.
As marijuana freedoms continue to spread across the globe, there are now countries that have greatly surpassed the Original Gangsters of pot in Amsterdam, but the reformers in the government are looking to change that. The opposition party Democrats 66 (D66) in the Netherlands Government drafted potential legislation in September to legalize large-scale cannabis cultivation to supply licensed retail marijuana businesses.
The framework was backed by the Green Left Party (GroenLinks), The Socialist Party (PvdD) and The Dutch Labour Party (PvdA). The only group that has shown reluctance in the past — the one in power — is the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). Backed by their leader, Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the VVD have been vehemently against cannabis reform in the past. The PM commented on this in 2014, saying that adopting the “Colorado model” was out of the question.
Those sentiments have clearly changed at the recent meeting for the VVD, where 80 percent of its members agreed the party should amend its views and consider “smarter regulation” of cannabis. The amendment was adopted within the party framework and cleared an open path for real legislation to previal.
Joachim Helms is the owner of the Green House Coffeeshops chain and the President of the Union of Cannabis Retailers in the Netherlands. In a (translated) interview with public service broadcaster NOS, Helms stated that he heard the VVD wants “nationwide regulatory control.”
He went on to add that the Netherlands should look to the upcoming Canadian model for inspiration, but they should avoid limiting production licenses to big corporations like Canada seems to be doing. Helms feels that smaller growers should be allowed to participate as a way to keep consumers the central focus of the cannabis industry instead of venture capital investors.
Regardless of the shape and size of the potential industry, cannabis reform now has no opposition going into the Dutch General Elections on March 15, 2017. That means after four decades of ignoring the Purple Elephant in the room, they just might have to try some.
(Photo Courtesy of Steven Bostock/Shutterstock)