Netherlands, Long a Weed Trailblazer, Tests Legality

In experiment, coffee shops in two Dutch cities will sell legally cultivated marijuana for the first time
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 15, 2023 10:43 AM CST
Netherlands, Long a Weed Trailblazer, Goes Legal
The entrance of de Baron coffee shop in the southern Dutch city of Breda.   (AP Photo/Mike Corder)

A paradox at the heart of the Netherlands' permissive pot policy went up in smoke Friday in two Dutch cities as "coffee shops" began selling the country's first legally cultivated cannabis as part of an experiment to regulate the trade. The experiment could mark the beginning of the end for a long-standing legal anomaly—you can buy and sell small amounts of weed without fear of prosecution in the Netherlands, but growing it commercially remains illegal, per the AP. "This is really a very, very big step in the right direction," Derrick Bergman, chairman of the Union for the Abolition of Cannabis Prohibition, said as he sat in the De Baron cannabis cafe in the southern Dutch city of Breda.

The plan for the experiment dates back to 2017 and is seen as as a way of providing "quality-controlled" weed to coffee shops—places that are allowed to sell marijuana—and shutting out illegal growers. A trailblazer in decriminalizing pot since the 1970s, the Netherlands has nonetheless grown more conservative. Amsterdam, long a magnet for marijuana smokers from around the world, has been closing shops in recent years and has banned smoking weed on some of the cobbled streets that make up its historic center.

"We are finally taking a small place on the international stage back again," said Bergman. "It's not like we're back full on. It's a small experiment." Friday marked the first day of what the government calls the "closed coffee shop chain experiment." The initial phase is scheduled to last a maximum of six months and could then be rolled out to 11 municipalities across the Netherlands. For now, coffee shops in Breda and nearby Tilburg are allowed to have a maximum of 500 grams of weed from legal growers in stock at a time.

(More Netherlands stories.)

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