In The Hague, they are working towards the start of an experiment with closed coffee shop chains. In the experiment, ten growers will supply cannabis to coffee shops in ten Dutch municipalities. The growers have been selected through a lottery and are going through the final Bibob checks. The laws and regulations have already been drafted.
Adjustments in laws and regulations, such as the ones proposed in 2017, which were discussed again last week, are not looked upon favorably by the outgoing cabinet at the moment, as is shown from a written statement from minister Tamara van Ark of Medical Care and Sports to the Dutch Senate earlier this month.
Expansion of policy of cannabis toleration
Back in 2017, adjustments to the opium law proposed by Senate member Vera Bergkamp from D66 were discussed in the Senate. The proposed adjustments were about condoning both the cultivation and selling of cannabis through closed coffee shop chains.
Van Ark does not favor this expansion of the policy of cannabis toleration to include cultivation. She writes:
"Starting the initiate proceedings of the legislative initiative proposal at this moment creates a situation that doesn’t logically connect to the experiment. The systems proposed in the experiment legislation and the legislative initiative proposal are different in many ways.
In the experiment, the cultivation and sales of hemp and hash are regulated. In doing so, the experiment ends the policy of cannabis toleration (for participating growers, municipalities, and coffee shops). There is a clear difference between regulated chains and punishable actions.
In the legislative initiative proposal, sales, cultivation, and related actions remain punishable, but the mayor or minister of Health, Welfare, and Sport (VWS) can decide not to prosecute in situations they deem permissible. The policy of cannabis toleration will be codified by law and expanded to include cannabis cultivation. Because of this, the two systems make use of a fundamentally different legal construct.”
Van Ark wants to await the results of the current experiment before changing legislation. “Participating municipalities, coffeeshops, growers, and other involved parties can trust that next Cabinet will use the experiment's findings as to the basis for choices made regarding the national policies regarding hemp and hash. If a new law regarding the topic that does not appear compatible with the current laws and regulations is passed before this happens, this can lead to people regarding the government as an unreliable partner.”
In other words, Van Ark doesn’t see a future in Bergkamp’s proposal and advises the Senate to keep this in mind when discussing the proposal. “There appears (...) to not be a possible solution to the experiment with closed coffee shop chains in which the legislative initiative proposal would be able to fulfill a logical role, or could contribute to the accelerated creation of a new policy and law and regulation.”