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State controled: Legal cannabis cultivation in the Netherlands

Greenhouses for cannabis are being built on two hectares of land in Bemmel near Nijmegen, and supply chains are finally becoming more transparent. However, there will be no on-site sales to customers.

Paul Wilhelm has been selling cannabis since he was 22 years old. In 1985, the Dutchman started a coffee shop in Amsterdam, and today Wilhelm runs several stores in the Netherlands. But Wilhelm wants to be an entrepreneur with attitude. "At the end of the day, you have to remember that I'm selling a drug. That's why I want to take responsibility," says Wilhelm, who is pushing ahead with a major project in Bemmel as part of a group of ten growers under the name "Cannamax." The group wants to cultivate cannabis on two hectares of land, completely legally and on behalf of the state.

The legal situation in regard to cannabis is almost bizarre. The sale of cannabis to adult customers in nearly 570 stores has been tolerated since 1976, but production, wholesale, and transport are prohibited. The state has thus delegated production to criminal networks that have developed a flourishing business. This can be seen in the Moroccan 'Mocro Maffia,' for example. After all, the market is large; almost a quarter (23.6 percent) of adults in the Netherlands have used cannabis before, according to a recent survey by the Dutch statistics office. In total, there are said to be one million consumers.

Now politicians in the Hague want to take countermeasures to better track the supply chains of cannabis. Therefore, a so-called cannabis experiment has been approved in the coalition agreement of Prime Minister Mark Rutte's government. With Arnhem, Almere, Breda, Groningen, Heerlen, Voorne aan Zee, Maastricht, Nijmegen, Tilburg, and Zaanstad, ten cities were selected which in the future are only allowed to sell cannabis that has been produced in a horticultural business with a license. In addition, the metropolis of Amsterdam has one district participating. The project is to last four years. After that, the politicians want to analyze whether the initiative has had a positive effect on crime and the health of the population and possibly adjust the legal situation.

Paul Wilhelm believes it is about time for a turnaround in drug policy. "And I am convinced that legal, controlled cannabis cultivation will prevail. Once the genie is out of the bottle, it's hard to put it back in," Wilhelm says. All his life, he has dreamed of decriminalizing the production of cannabis. He says that countries like Canada are already much further along in this area. "Currently, cannabis is delivered as inconspicuously as possible through the back door of the coffee shop. This is an absurd situation. Entrepreneurs, customers, and the state should be able to look much more closely at what is actually being sold there," says Wilhelms. At present, the drug is mainly imported from Spain.

Currently, work is underway at the greenhouses in Bemmel. Professional cultivation is expected to begin in the third or fourth quarter of 2023, with approximately 100 jobs expected to be created. "We are focusing on supply chain verification. It must be made transparent where the products used come from," says Wilhelm. The safety standards are high, the area is not open to customers, and there will be no on-site sales. Specialized companies will be used for the transport of the plants, and the odor for residents should be close to zero, according to the project planners.

"The advantage is that, as a coffee shop operator, I can now test the cannabis precisely. I can smell it and measure the quality. So far, I can hardly tell whether the product has been sprayed," says Wilhelm. The facility is designed to produce at least 6,500 kilograms of cannabis per year. "If it were up to me, legalization would proceed much faster in our country too. But the experiment is a step in the right direction. I am confident that we can demonstrate the benefits of not leaving the production of cannabis to the criminal underworld," says Wilhelm.

Source (in German):

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