The History of Marijuana in the Netherlands

The Netherlands has a history with marijuana dating back to the 1920s, when the plant was legal in the  Dutch East Indies until 1927. By 1928, the Netherlands moved towards a more active enforcement of drugs by introducing the import and export of cannabis into the Opium Act. The Opium Act is the Dutch drug policy created in 1911 to classify drugs as List One, high risk hard drugs and List Two, acceptable soft drugs. Marijuana continued to be treated differently than other drugs until 1953, when the possession, manufacture, and sale of cannabis became criminal offenses under the Opium Act. Enforcement still wasn’t evident until the 1960s, when the soft drug policy in the Netherlands was very repressive. This soon changed in the 1970s, as the Netherlands became more tolerant of soft drug use.

During the 1970s the famous Dutch coffee shops began to open, including The Bulldog, the first marijuana coffee shop in Amsterdam, which began selling to users in 1975.  The following year the Dutch government amended the Opium Act, by classifying marijuana as a List Two drug. This change in law started a national policy of tolerance towards personal marijuana use, so by the 1990s, the number of coffee shops in the country had grown to 1,500.  Now, Amsterdam continues to be the city of cannabis coffee shops.


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