Marijuana Industry in the Netherlands
The Netherlands, and Amsterdam in particular, have been the center of cannabis coolness for decades. It has been recommended as THE place in Europe if you want to buy weed and relax in one of the famous coffee shops.
However, in recent years, the country’s government has taken quite a few steps to help it get rid of the image of a ‘cannabis paradise.’ For example, many coffee shops were raided by the police and closed indefinitely.
So, is the Netherlands still a haven for cannabis users? After all, the industry still exists and attracts thousands of tourists from around the world.
Let’s find out in this article.
The Dutch government’s approach to the issue of legalization of cannabis has always been more pragmatic than politically driven. When it decriminalized personal possession and use for adults in the 1970s, the industry began to evolve at impressing pace. However, in the recent decade, the laws regulating the industry have been revised for a stricter control.
For example, the well-known ‘coffee shops’ are allowed to operate under harsh licensing conditions, which include a ban on alcohol sale, age-access limits, external appearance, and marketing. Some cannabis businesses were closed down because of inability to meet these regulations, but the majority of ‘coffee shops’ still works.
In fact, in 2017, the country’s government even voted by majority to regulate the production of cannabis, which has been recognized by many as a step towards legalization and reduction of coffee shops’ dependency on illegal trade.
Given that the marijuana industry generates an annual $1.1 billion, it seems just reasonable to legalize and regulate the production of the marijuana because this money would have accrued to criminal profiteers.
The cultivation of marijuana is partly allowed due to the aforementioned law adopted last year. However, 5 plants for personal use is typically tolerated (having more than 5 plants irrevocably leads to prosecution). Also, the authorities place serious limits on equipment used for growing, including tent, light, and extractor system: one person is not allowed to have more than one technical apparatus.
The Sale of Marijuana
As it was previously mentioned, the number of coffee shops in the country has been decreasing due to stricter regulations. For example, in the late 1990s, the Netherlands had 846 of them, but the number fell to 582 in 2016. Together with home dealers, these businesses sell more than 100,000 kilograms of weed every year.
Smokey Coffee Shop in Amsterdam. Image Source: Wikipedia Commons (free to reuse).
Even though this sounds like a lot, the sale of cannabis remains an offense. Here are some regulations to follow for both sellers and buyers:
- Sale of hard drugs is prohibited
- Advertising of soft drugs like cannabis is prohibited
- Possession of more than 5 grams but less than 30 gram of cannabis is an offense for which you will go to court. You could go to prison for a month and pay a €2.250 fine
- Smoking in cafes and hash bars is illegal but tolerated
- Public smoking on the streets is typically tolerated; however, there are some areas in the cities where smoking is banned.
Legal Status of Medicinal and Recreational Cannabis
The local government recognizes health both short and long terms effects of weed on patients, so medical marijuana is allowed in the country. Naturally, you’ll have to have a prescription from a physician to purchase it. Many insurers cover medical use of cannabis in their plans, so medical users typically have options to obtain this drug.
On the other hand, recreational cannabis is illegal. Are you surprised? Many people are when they hear this because the Netherlands and especially Amsterdam are associated with the freedom of recreational use.
No worries, though.
The government came up with a special “tolerance policy.” As mentioned above, possession of no more than 5 grams of weed is tolerated. This means that the authorities will turn a blind eye to those in possession of 5 grams or less. Also, coffee shops are technically illegal but they are granted permission to trade. Yep, the local cannabis law is a hazy old business.
The Bottom Line
The Netherlands is slowly but surely moving towards legalization. The recently adopted law regulating cultivation is a sign that the government shares a positive attitude towards the issue. At this moment, however, the cannabis industry in the country relies heavily on the so-called “tolerance policy” that makes coffee shops and trade possible.
What about the future? The Dutch will certainly legalize marijuana at some point, no doubt about that. Perhaps, they are closely watching how neighboring countries tackle this issue.
Written by Kathrin Garner