Timeline for the controlled cannabis supply chain experiment
The government wishes to conduct an experiment with the legal supply of cannabis to coffee shops. Numerous arrangements have to be made for an experiment of this nature. For one thing, the law must be amended. In the municipalities that take part in the experiment, the selected coffee shops and growers will have to make preparations, such as applying for licences.
From coalition agreement to experimentAll the arrangements that have to be made
Experiment announced in coalition agreement
In the coalition agreement, the governing parties agreed that an experiment would be conducted in six to ten large and medium-sized municipalities to legally supply coffee shops with quality-controlled cannabis. The purpose of the experiment is to determine whether this is feasible and what the effects will be. To ensure the experiment produces meaningful results, its effects on crime, safety, public order and public health must be measured.
At present the Netherlands has 573 coffee shops, spread over 103 municipalities. The existence of these coffee shops is the result of the Netherlands’ policy of toleration, which allows the sale of cannabis by coffee shops under certain conditions. At the same time, however, the production and supply of cannabis to coffee shops remain prohibited.
Municipalities have expressed concerns about current coffee shop policy, complaining that it causes problems relating to public order and safety, public health and efforts to combat crime.
Recommendations, the government’s response and a legislative bill
The government wants the experiment to be empirically sound and to generate enough data to base political decisions on. A number of independent committees have been formed to advise the government in these areas.
The report deals with how such an experiment can be conducted in practice. The committee divided up the coffee shop system into three parts: production, distribution and sales. It also made recommendations about prevention, monitoring and law enforcement and about how the experiment should be evaluated.
Later in the year the committee will put forward suggestions about which municipalities can take part in the experiment.
In its official response to the advisory report, the government adopted many of the committee’s recommendations with regard to the production and distribution of cannabis, coffee shop sales, supervision and law enforcement, and prevention. However, the government will adhere to the undertaking in the coalition agreement to conduct a uniform experiment in six to ten municipalities. This can be read in its response to the advisory committee’s report.
To make the experiment possible, the law needs to be amended. A legislative bill has been drawn up that will allow the cultivation and sale of cannabis. It sets out the length of the experiment, its purpose and the number of municipalities in which it will be conducted. The bill and the explanatory memorandum were submitted to the House of Representatives on 16 July 2018. 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.
Order in Council
A detailed description of the experiment, complete with the conditions that growers and sellers of cannabis must meet, will be laid down in an order in council. The order in council will be based on the advisory report of the Knottnerus committee and the government’s response. Input is also being sought from municipalities and experts, so as to ensure that the experiment will be as realistic and feasible as possible.
In the meantime, municipalities can indicate interest in taking part in the experiment. Later in the year the Knottnerus committee will issue an advisory report on which municipalities can participate. The municipalities that are selected for participation will be listed in the order in council.
On 22 January 2019, the House of Representatives adopted the controlled cannabis supply chain experiment bill. It will debate the order in council at a later date. The Senate will also debate and vote on the bill.
The date on which the law enters into force will depend on when the House and Senate vote on the bill. Once the bill passes into law, the preparations for the experiment can start.
Preparatory phase: municipalities, coffee shops and growers
It is expected that the municipalities, growers and coffee shops will need at least a year to prepare the experiment.
The government has decided to allow five to ten growers to take part in the experiment. Once the order in council takes effect, cannabis growers can apply for a licence. Only growers who are granted a licence will be permitted to take part in the experiment. The criteria for the licence will be stated in the order in council. A specific time period will be set for submitting licence applications. It is not yet clear when that will be.
The experimental phase
Once the preparations are complete, the experiment can begin. During the four-year period the designated growers will be permitted to produce cannabis and supply it to coffee shops in the participating municipalities, in accordance with the terms of the experiment. The coffee shops will then be allowed to sell the cannabis.
Research and evaluation
The government wants the experiment to be empirically sound and to generate enough data to base political decisions on. To that end, the special law that has been drafted provides for the creation of a guidance and evaluation committee, which will monitor the researchers’ work and ensure that the experiment is evaluated. The committee will assess the experiment before the end of the experimental phase, and then the government will decide what course of action to take.