The Dutch government will launch a ‘controlled cannabis supply chain experiment’ (‘experiment gesloten coffeeshopketen’) testing regulated cannabis cultivation in ten large and medium-sized municipalities including Almere, Breda, and Tilburg. Currently, it is not legal in the Netherlands to cultivate cannabis for distribution although its sale and use for recreational purposes is tolerated.
The experiment will only be possible with changes to current legislation and according to a statement on the government’s website, its purpose “is to determine whether and how controlled cannabis can be legally supplied to coffee shops and what the effects of this would be” including the impact “on crime, safety, public order and public health.” The government also reported that it “wants the experiment to be empirically sound and to generate enough data to base political decisions on.”
The Minister of Justice and Security and the Minister for Healthcare inquired an independent advisory committee regarding recommendations about the design of the experiment. The committee, which released its report on 20 June 2018, was chaired by Professor André Knottnerus and reportedly includes “experts and scientists from a variety of fields, including addiction prevention and care, food and other consumer products, justice, local government and international law.” The government also plans to establish a guidance and evaluation committee to appoint researchers to monitor the experiment and create an independent evaluation. The final structure of the experiment will be assessed by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) and the Central Committee on Research Involving Human Subjects (CCMO).
The government will issue licenses to five to ten designated growers who will be appointed by ministerial order and permitted to produce and supply cannabis to coffee shops in the participating municipalities. All coffee shops in participating municipalities will be obligated to participate in the experiment as the government stated in its committee response that it is “undesirable to have more than one enforcement regime operating within a single municipality.”
Together with the experiment launch the government also intends to introduce a public health communication strategy targeted toward young people, “in order to prevent this experiment from creating the impression that government-regulated cannabis is healthy or safe.” The government also stated that it is already “in contact with neighboring countries, other European countries, and international organisations to clarify the intentions of the experiment.”
The experiment is scheduled to begin in 2021 and is projected to last for five years and two months including a one year preparation period.