Here’s Where The Netherlands Stands On Cannabis
Slowly but surely, cannabis policy is changing in the Netherlands, where the government has agreed to undertake a six-year experiment that will allow select coffee shops to sell cannabis that has been cultivated and distributed through a select number of licensed growers. While some see that project as an encouraging development, Nicole Maalsté thinks the plan will actually see the legalization movement leave the Netherlands in the dust as it spreads globally.
Maalsté has been conducting research in criminal environments associated with the cannabis market in the Netherlands for the last 25 years and wrote several books about the Dutch cannabis industry. She prides herself for looking at social problems from different perspectives. Nicole works with universities, governments, lawyers, journalists, interest groups and political parties and has published numerous books and essays on the weed industry. Her company 420 Consultancy conducts research and encourages their customers to regard all aspects of the market to make the most efficient decisions.
We recently chatted with Maalsté about the state of cannabis in the Netherlands. Here’s what she had to say.
Many people in the world believe that – after forty years with cannabis coffee shops – the Netherlands are the frontrunners in cannabis legalization. In contrast to that, cannabis isn’t even legal in the Netherlands, only decriminalized. VICE recently wrote that the Dutch merely “stumble towards legalization.” How would you describe the cannabis situation in the Netherlands?
I recognize what they say in VICE. Actually, I would even go further and say that we will be standing still for a while. We will be doing an experiment. The experiment will take about six years and we will miss the development in the world.
The idea for the experiment came from a compromise in our political coalition. Four parties work together in this coalition. Two of them are against regulating cannabis and one of them is not clear about it. That’s why they didn’t want to go through with the law that was already in parliament to legalize cannabis. So they came up with the idea of an experiment: in ten cities, coffee shops will sell cannabis from legal production facilities. There will be ten licenses to grow. Many companies will try to get a license. But to get a license, you have to be Dutch and it has to be a Dutch company. So, the big companies, like Canopy Growth or Aurora, officially cannot participate. It is a scientific experiment too. They want to compare what is happening in these cities. After the summer the ten cities might be announced.
My problem with this experiment is that 90 percent of the Dutch coffee shops will not be involved. They will continue to buy and sell illegal cannabis. I would prefer if we could have gone through with the former law to legalize.
Is the scientific aspect of the experiment true research or an attempt to fulfill the UN regulations that say cannabis can only be used for medical reasons or in a scientific context?
This is not about the UN regulations. We have already been breaking them with our coffee shops for decades. It is fear: The government is afraid to be the first in Europe to legalize. Even after many years, cannabis still has a bad reputation in the Netherlands.