Controlled cannabis supply chain experiment

The government wishes to initiate 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 coffee shops and what the effects of this would be.

Current coffee shop policy

Dutch coffee shop policy has long been a subject of public debate. This debate is centred on 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.

Experiment in six to ten municipalities

In order for the experiment to take place, special legislation must be passed. The experiment will be conducted in six to ten large and medium-sized municipalities, which have yet to be selected. While the media often refer to this programme as ‘the weed experiment’, its official Dutch name is the 'experiment gesloten coffeeshopketen'; in English this is rendered as ‘controlled cannabis supply chain experiment’. The cannabis cultivated for the purposes of the experiment will be controlled so it does not end up in the illegal trade. Under the rules of the experiment, 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. For one thing, the law must be amended. 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. The bill is currently being debated in the Senate. An order in council is also being prepared. Among other things, this will set out the conditions that growers and sellers of cannabis must meet. A first draft of the order in council was published in November 2018, so that interested parties could suggest improvements to the draft decision in the order in council. The response is currently being reviewed. A new version of the order in council will be submitted to the House of Representatives in the spring of 2019.