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Cannabis Trials Begin In The Netherlands After Long Delay

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Limited adult-use cannabis commerce trials finally launched this week in the Netherlands after several delays. Cannabis trials, which permit consumers, growers, and retailers to participate in legal cannabis commerce for research purposes, were first proposed in the Netherlands in 2017 as part of a governing coalition agreement.

“The aim of the experiment is to ascertain whether or not it is possible to regulate a quality-controlled supply of cannabis to coffee shops and to study the effects of a regulated supply chain on crime, safety, public nuisance and public health. In order to allow the experiment to take place, special legislation must be adopted.” the Netherlands’ government stated at the time.

The push to launch cannabis trials in the Netherlands has experienced a series of setbacks. Back in September 2019, ten municipalities were selected for participation in the trials, although legislation was still needed to allow the trials to proceed.

On January 22, 2019, the nation’s House of Representatives adopted a controlled cannabis supply chain experiment measure, followed by passage in the Senate on November 12, 2019. That afforded some of the estimated 570 cannabis-selling coffee shops in the country a path to participate in the eventual trials.

The initial timeline to launch the trials was 2021, however, that did not happen. The same was true for 2022, with the year coming and going and the Netherlands seeming to be no closer to achieving the full implementation of initial cannabis trials. The delays were reportedly due to a lack of legal supply.

At one point in 2023, it appeared that the whole year would be lost to more delays, with the nation’s Health Minister Ernst Kuipers indicating that they did not want to roll out the trials in phases. Fortunately, the trials did launch this week in Breda and Tilburg.

Cannabis trials are not unique to the Netherlands. Multiple cannabis trials are already underway in Switzerland, such as in cities like Zurich and Basel, with more expected to be launched in the next calendar year.

The public policy concept of cannabis trials is a key component of the legalization model being pursued in Germany. Germany’s Commissioner for Addiction and Drug Issues Burkhard Blienert recently traveled to The Netherlands to discuss the concept:

Cannabis trials are expected to launch in other cities in the Netherlands, although it is still unclear when that will happen exactly. Arnhem, Almere, Groningen, Heerlen, Hellevoetsluis, Maastricht, Nijmegen, and Zaanstad are other municipalities in the Netherlands selected for cannabis trials.

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