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 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.

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 coffee shops and to study the effects of a regulated supply chain on crime, safety, public nuisance and public health. In order for the experiment to take place, special legislation must be passed. 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. On 12 November 2019 the Senate adopted the bill. 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.

Monitoring the experiment

During the experiment, researchers will monitor 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. Thereafter, the government will decide on the future of Dutch coffee shop policy.

Experiment design

During the experiment, legally produced cannabis will be sold in coffee shops in 10 municipalities. Coffee shops in these municipalities may only sell legally produced cannabis.

No more than 10 growers will produce the cannabis. The growers will be selected by the government. 7 growers have been selected thus far. They have started setting up their facilities.

The phases of the experiment

The experiment will consist of 4 phases:

  1. a preparatory phase;
  2. a transitional phase;
  3. the experimental phase (including evaluation); and
  4. a completion phase.

The experimental phase will last for 4 years. An evaluation will be performed during the 4-year period. Thereafter, the government will decide on the future of Dutch coffee shop policy.