If you tell people abroad that you come from the Netherlands, it often doesn't take long before someone starts talking about cannabis. The Dutch policy of tolerance for both the use and the cultivation of cannabis is known worldwide and is often even seen as progressive. But as progressive as that is in the field of recreational cannabis cultivation, so conservative is the Netherlands when it comes to medicinal cannabis. "A pity," says Laust Dam, the expert and advisor in the field of medicinal cannabis cultivation, "because the Netherlands has all the knowledge, materials and applications that this cultivation needs.
Medicinal cannabis is perhaps one of the fastest-growing crops ever. Not surprisingly, because with a market of 250 million users worldwide and a yield of € 10,000,- per m², this crop seems to be a gold mine, especially now that more and more by-products are on the market. But is that really the case? "Yes, if we grow cannabis in the right way, it can be," says Laust. "It is a very valuable crop and the return on investment is - despite the large investment you have to make - very short. Whereas you invest in vegetable cultivation for twenty or thirty years, in medicinal cannabis you have already earned this back after three or four years of cultivation. While the cultivation itself is not very different from other crops; it's just a plant that reacts like any other plant."
However, this cultivation is not only rose scent, because also in medicinal cannabis growers have to deal with different challenges. For example, a company has to comply with very high standards in the field of hygiene; it is literally a pharmaceutical way of producing. The use of pesticides is also prohibited and the end product undergoes strict quality controls before it is allowed on the market. For Dutch growers, however, the biggest challenge lies in an entirely different area: obtaining the necessary papers.
Legalisation requires lobbying and long-term commitment
To date, the cultivation of medicinal cannabis worldwide is only permitted in two countries. The Netherlands is not one of them. Laust: "As it looks now, I expect the Netherlands to be perhaps the last European country where the cultivation of medicinal cannabis will be legalised. On a political level, there is still a great deal to be done. And even if medicinal cannabis is legalized, it can still take years before the first licenses are actually issued. As a grower, you have to meet all kinds of requirements. By way of illustration: for MediSun this took three years."
Is there any way we can speed up this process? Do growers themselves have to rattle at the gates of the government in order to get through the legalisation of cannabis production? Laust is clear about this: "Yes, lobbying is the only way to speed up this process." But one thing is certain: in the short term, we should not expect legal medicinal cannabis from Dutch soil.
Laust Dam is the expert and advisor in the field of medicinal cannabis cultivation. He was born and raised at a nursery in Denmark and for many years has been the source of information for licensed medicinal cannabis growers. Today, Laust works as Vice President of Horticultural Development at AURORA/ALPS and COO and Director of MediSun in Canada. His focus is on the possibilities, opportunities and threats of medicinal cannabis cultivation on a large scale, with an eye for cultivation planning, climate, irrigation and nutrition strategies and the necessary tools.