For years, the Netherlands has been known for its tolerance policy towards soft drugs, especially cannabis. However, the legalisation of adult-use cannabis sales has been a long time coming. After numerous delays and obstacles, it is now official: in December, the Netherlands will start the cannabis experiment, a pilot programme aimed at regulating cannabis sales and assessing whether legal cannabis sales are feasible and desirable. Read more here about this initiative that is finally getting underway after many obstacles.

The Cannabis Experiment: regulating the cannabis industry

The weed experiment, also known as the cannabis experiment, is a historic change in Dutch attitudes towards cannabis. Its main aim is to set up a ‘closed coffeeshop chain’ in selected municipalities. This means that the government regulates the production, distribution and sale of cannabis, thereby taking cannabis out of the illegal circuit. This experiment aims not only to assess the effects on safety, public health and crime, but also to test whether regulating the cannabis industry is feasible at all.

Tilburg and Breda: pioneers in cannabis experiment

The start of the experiment will take place in the cities of Tilburg and Breda, where two selected producers will grow and supply legal cannabis to coffee shops. These municipalities are the first to be allowed to participate in the cannabis trial. Later, eight more municipalities and a district of Amsterdam are expected to follow. This then means that, as a user, you will thus soon be able to buy legal cannabis.

A legislative paradox

You might have thought that buying cannabis was already legal in the Netherlands. But looking more carefully at the matter, it is a bit more complex.

A striking feature of current policy is that coffee shops in the Netherlands are allowed to sell cannabis to consumers, but they are not allowed to buy it legally. This has led to a paradox in which the sale of cannabis is tolerated, but its procurement is often done through illegal channels. This lack of regulation is said to not only compromise the quality and safety of cannabis, but also contributes to crime.

The cannabis trial will change this by allowing coffee shops in participating municipalities to legally purchase cannabis from designated producers. The government will oversee the supply and quality of cannabis. Due to this, many users are sceptical about the quality that will be supplied. During the experiment, coffee shops can also continue to purchase from their existing, mostly illegal suppliers, without legal consequences.

Legal cannabis Netherlands
Legal cannabis for sale in the Netherlands

Setbacks and delays

Although the launch of the cannabis experiment in December 2023 is a milestone, the experiment has faced many setbacks. The original plan was to launch much earlier, but there were major obstacles hindering progress.

One of the biggest problems was the difficulty for producers in obtaining bank accounts for their businesses. Several of the cultivators said they were opposed by banks. Banks were reluctant to do business with parties involved in the cannabis industry as it is still not considered legal. Although the government promised to find solutions, it remains unclear whether some cultivators still have this problem.

Nevertheless, cities in the south of the Netherlands seem to be ready for the launch of the cannabis trial in December, despite the obstacles of recent years.

Impact of the cannabis trial

The cannabis trial has significant implications for both the Netherlands and the European Union. The government has pointed out that the Dutch tolerance policy has opened the door for organised crime groups to become the primary source of cannabis supply. Legalisation of cannabis sales in the Netherlands may lead to changes in the cannabis industry. The government indicates that this could lead to increased tax revenues, improved product quality and opportunities for investment.

From a European perspective, the pilot programme could become a model for other European countries aiming to legalise cannabis. Germany recently passed a bill to legalise possession, cultivation and the establishment of cannabis social clubs. If the Netherlands wants to further legalise cannabis, it will have to cooperate with the European Commission to ensure that the proposed legislation is in line with international and EU regulations.

What can we expect in December?

From 13 December, you can buy cannabis regulated by the government in certain coffee shops in Breda and Tilburg, and thus grown and sourced legally. The expectation is that users will soon weigh in on the quality of this weed. 

Will the weed experiment succeed?

The upcoming launch of the cannabis trial in the Netherlands in December is a major development in the discussion on cannabis legalisation in Europe. With this initiative, the Netherlands hopes to improve the quality and safety of the cannabis industry. 

Stop by The Border

At The Border, you can enjoy the high quality cannabis you have come to expect from us. We are located in an ideal location on the edge of the Amsterdamse Bos. Stop by and enjoy countless varieties of cannabis.