The Dutch government is preparing to introduce a pilot program that would temporarily legalize the production and sale of cannabis, but the Netherlands' notorious coffee shops think the plan has some major shortcomings.
The cannabis industry in the Netherlands exists in a sort of limbo. While cities like Amsterdam are famous for their cannabis cafés, these shops aren't legal, strictly speaking. While adults are permitted to buy small amounts of cannabis from coffee shops, growing cannabis and distributing it to those stores remains prohibited.
It's a strange situation that the Dutch government has begun working to rectify. A pilot program is being rolled out early next year that would see a small handful of businesses licensed to legally grow and distribute cannabis to the nation's coffee shops. And while this may seem like a reasonable first step towards bringing the Netherlands into a fully legalized cannabis market, not everyone is onboard.
Amsterdam and other cities that are home to the biggest coffee shops are refusing to be part of the pilot, citing a number of potential issues. For example, municipalities who sign up for the program must require all of the coffee shops within their jurisdiction to source their products from licensed cultivators only. That means established shops will lose access to growers they have long relationships with, and if too many shops attempt to buy from the limited number of licensed growers, there would likely be a cannabis shortage similar to what is happening in Canada.
Additionally, the pilot does not include a plan for the country to transition into a fully legal market. So the licensed cannabis producers could be forced to stop growing when the pilot ends, and any of the shops who relied on their products will need to find new suppliers once again. And that could be tricky if their former growers go out of business because the pilot program has prevented them from doing business with coffee shops.
So the pilot could ironically be a big step backward for marijuana reform in the Netherlands.