Controlled cannabis supply chain experiment

The Dutch government has initiated an experiment involving the cultivation of cannabis for recreational use. The purpose of the experiment is to determine whether and how controlled cannabis can be legally supplied to coffeeshops and what the effects of this would be.

Current coffeeshop policy

Dutch coffeeshop policy has long been a subject of public debate. At the heart of the debate is the ambiguous status of cannabis: while the sale and use of cannabis for recreational purposes are tolerated, production and distribution are strictly prohibited. Under the current policy of toleration, selling and using are still criminal offences under Dutch law, but the authorities choose not to pursue or prosecute lawbreakers. Many municipalities have complained that this policy is causing problems with regard to public order and safety, public health and crime-fighting.

An experiment with controlled supply of cannabis

The 2017 coalition agreement included a pledge to conduct an experiment with the regulated cultivation and sale of cannabis. The aim of the experiment is to ascertain whether or not it is possible to regulate a quality-controlled supply of cannabis to coffeeshops 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 cannabis cultivated for the purposes of the experiment will be controlled to prevent it from ending up in the illegal trade. As the legislation of the experiment prescribes, the cannabis can only be sold in participating municipalities.

Recommendations and legislative bill

Numerous arrangements have to be made for an experiment of this nature. One of the first steps is amending the existing legislation. An independent advisory committee has issued recommendations about the design of the experiment. On 22 January 2019, the House of Representatives adopted the controlled cannabis supply chain experiment bill. On 12 November 2019 the Senate adopted the bill. Among other things, this will set out the conditions that growers  and sellers of cannabis must meet.

Monitoring the experiment

During the experiment, researchers will monitor the progress and the results of the experiment. The researchers will start during the preparatory phase. An independent guidance and evaluation committee will supervise the researchers. The committee will also evaluate the experiment. The government will decide on the future of Dutch coffeeshop policy on the basis of these outcomes and other factors.

Experiment design

During the experiment, legally produced cannabis will be sold in coffeeshops in 10 municipalities. Coffeeshops in these municipalities may only sell legally produced cannabis.10 growers will produce the cannabis. All 10 growers have been selected by the government. They have started applying for local permits and setting up their facilities.

The phases of the experiment

The experiment will consist of 5 phases:

  1. a preparatory phase;
  2. a start-up phase (maximum of six months);
  3. a transitional phase (maximum of six weeks);
  4. the experimental phase (including evaluation) (at least four years); and
  5. a completion phase.

The experimental phase will last for 4 years. An evaluation will be performed during the 4-year period.