Organised illegal marijuana growth further restricted

Minister of Justice Hirsch Ballin wants to make punishable all acts that support and facilitate the large-scale illegal growth of marijuana. The measure will give the police and Public Prosecution Service more options to root out the criminal chain of marijuana growth and to reduce the market. That approach concerns all links of the production chain, such as grow shops, operators and criminal organisations involved in wholesale trade and export. It will become liable to a term of imprisonment of three years. This is evident from a legislative proposal that was today sent to various agencies for advice, including the Council for the Judiciary and the Netherlands Bar Association (NOvA).

Especially grow shops serve as facilitators and drivers of the cannabis industry, in particular the professional growth of marijuana grown in the Netherlands. Various investigations conducted in recent years show that the activities of grow shops go much further than the mere sale of legal products for small-scale (home) growth and that they are often guilty of punishable acts by supplying plants and cuttings, the installation of provisions for tapping electricity, organising growth, purchase of the final product and the laundering of the proceeds. It also happens that transport and distribution companies are involved in the growth of and trade in hemp, for example electricians that install installations. It has furthermore become clear that the organised hemp growth has strong ties with organised crime.

The Minister's proposal improves the possibilities of criminal action against acts that facilitate the illegal growth of hemp and that can be connected to unlawful commercial activities of grow shops. Those possibilities are currently too limited to be able to act adequately.

The regulation arises from the Reinforcement Combating of Organised Crime programme, within which the combating of organised hemp growth is one of the main themes. This programme-based approach explicitly focuses not only on the dismantlement of criminal partnerships and the investigation and prosecution of individual offenders, but precisely also deals with the underlying facilitating structures such as the grow shops that facilitate large-scale growth. A Taskforce Combating Organised Marihuana Growth was formed in 2008 to professionalise and broaden the combating of hemp growth. Making preparatory acts punishable is an addition to existing statutory possibilities of effectively dealing with drug-related nuisance and (organised) crime by means of Administrative Law and Criminal Law.

The legislative proposal follows on from the motion from Member of the Lower House Van Haersma Buma in which the government is requested to make proposals to deal with acts of grow shops that facilitate and stimulate organised hemp growth.