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Is The Cannabis Experiment In The Netherlands In Trouble?

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Regional adult-use cannabis commerce 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. Due to a series of delays, trials were not launched until December 2023.

Despite the nation’s cannabis trials being very new in the Netherlands, lawmakers in the European country are already trying to end the cannabis public policy experiment. According to domestic reporting, the nation’s largest political party, PVV, wants to pause the trials until a new governing coalition agreement is finalized.

The ChristenUnie, SGP, and CDA political parties also oppose cannabis trials in the Netherlands. Cannabis trials are still supported by the GroenLinks-PvdA, D66, and VVD parties.

Cannabis and the Netherlands have a long history, with the nation’s capital Amsterdam serving as one of the top international cannabis tourist destinations for several decades. Coffeeshops selling cannabis products are common in Amsterdam.

Such entities are historically ‘tolerated’ versus being outright legal. Public policy in the Netherlands has historically been disconnected from reality when it comes to cannabis, and the trials are a means to try to start bridging the gap.

“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 previously stated.

In September 2019, ten municipalities were selected for participation in cannabis 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. However, the trials did launch in December 2023 in Breda and Tilburg.

Arnhem, Almere, Groningen, Heerlen, Hellevoetsluis, Maastricht, Nijmegen, and Zaanstad are other municipalities in the Netherlands that were selected for cannabis trials.

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 during 2024. Cannabis trials are also planned for several jurisdictions in Germany as part of the second phase of the nation’s legalization plan.

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