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Parliament allows Dutch cannabis cultivation pilot to continue, but without Amsterdam

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Members of Parliament struck down a proposal to bring an early end to the Dutch government's pilot project that will expand the legality of the cannabis trade. The experiment has only just gotten underway, and is meant to eventually lead to stricter regulation and monitoring of the coffeeshops and their cannabis suppliers. At the same time, a majority in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Parliament, also shot down a measure that would allow the experiment to expand from 10 to 11 municipalities so that the Amsterdam-Oost district in the capital could participate.

The motion to either permanently stop the experiment, or temporarily halt it, was put forward by Diederik van Dijk. The MP from the far-right Christian party SGP had the backing of his own party and far-right nationalist PVV, the largest party in the Tweede Kamer following the November elections. The measure to put a permanent end to the project lost by a vote of 110-40. The parties Denk, ChristenUnie and CDA joined SGP and PVV in the failed attempt to temporarily stop the experiment, which ended in a vote of 99-51 on Tuesday afternoon.

Under the Netherlands’ current tolerance policy, coffeeshops are allowed to sell cannabis to customers, but cultivating the soft drug is prohibited. Additionally, it is not allowed to supply larger quantities of the drug, nor is it permitted legally permissible to maintain the necessary amount to provide to individual customers during working hours. Because of this, coffeeshops, buy their stocks through back door connections to illegal growers while the authorities mostly look the other way.

The closed coffeeshop supply chain experiment finally started in December 2023 after a decade of political debates and many delays, with the project meant to last for more than five years. But during a debate last week on whether to allow the Amsterdam-Oost district to participate in the trial, it quickly became clear that the new Tweede Kamer was not at all enthusiastic about the experiment.

The PVV, now the largest party in parliament, called the trial “experimenting with our children” and proposed stopping it completely, or at least pausing it until a new coalition is in office. Christian parties ChristenUnie, SGP, and CDA also have reservations about continuing the experiment, let alone expanding it.

The project begin with Breda and Tilburg coffeeshops supplied by two permitted growers. That will then expand to Arnhem, Almere, Groningen, Heerlen, Voorne aan Zee, Maastricht, Nijmegen and Zaanstad. Eventually, Amsterdam-Oost presented itself as a possible additional participant in the project.

However, including the eastern district of the city meant adapting the existing law governing the experiment to allow for an 11th municipality. The Tweede Kamer narrowly struck down that proposal, which was submitted by Ernst Kuipers when he was the minister of health. Left-wing and centrist parties GroenLinks-PvdA, D66, SP and Volt were joined by the right-wing VVD, and the far-right FvD and Ja21 in support of the measure. The measure failed to pass by a vote of 78-72.

The illegal cultivation of cannabis has been a serious issue for years, having ties to money laundering, underground banking, and loansharking. The latter has been linked to people being forced to turn their property into illegal grow houses to pay down their debt. When caught, the victims of such schemes can face prosecution, and may find barriers to essential services, like energy contracts, opening or continuing a bank account, and insurance. Other grow houses are sometimes set up without safety precautions, with facilitators often stealing electricity from other sources.

The goal of this experiment, in which the coffeeshops in 10 municipalities buy their supply from government-authorized growers is to see whether regulation is a better option. Hoped-for benefits include a better product subject to quality standards and less crime.


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