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Cannabis and medical use in the Netherlands


The Netherlands has been seen as a bastion for the cannabis smoker for a very long time. It is where tourists, students, medical users and anyone looking for a bit of enlightenment make a pilgrimage to in order to sample some of the wonders of marijuana. But did you know that weed is not technically legal there?

Through loopholes in law and by public consensus, the governing body of the Netherlands operates under a policy of tolerance. This means anything that is classified as a “soft drug” by the government, (which cannabis is), doesn’t involve the pursuit of individual prosecutions for personal possession.

There is a fine line though. Personal use is tolerated, but anything that may be seen as an intent to supply will be pursued with the full force of the law. Having more than 5 grams of cannabis in a public area, or 30 in a private will see someone land in serious trouble. You will also face prosecution if you are found growing more than 5 plants. That’s not to say that if a policemen catches you with less they will let you go on your way with no consequences. It will be down to the policeman's discretion - so you best hope they are having a good day, or they may confiscate your goods as they are still technically illegal. You just don’t have to worry about prosecution. In general it is a well known fact that many Dutch citizens are growing a plant or two each summer. Even in the Dutch climate, all you need is a cannabis growing guide and a few good seeds to grow enough weed for personal usage. With the development autoflowering genetics, plants can basically be grown anywhere.

The only place you can “legally” obtain cannabis is within a coffee shop, and these are only allowed to stock up to 500g at a time. Of course, they are not allowed to grow the weed as cultivation of anything more than 5 plants is illegal, so their supply has to appear out of nowhere. For now this system seems to be working, with the government focusing on stopping cultivation instead of clamping down on the everyday user looking to relax. Cannabis seeds can still be legally bought on the internet and the Netherlands is still the main provider for cannabis seeds and top-notch genetics.

A few years ago, the ruling conservative Christian party came up with the idea of introducing a “weed pass” within the Netherlands to try to curb the amount of tourists specifically coming to the country to smoke. This pass required Dutch citizens to register for a government pass to use in coffee shops, effectively stopping tourists from smoking. There was a general outcry against the damage it would to do the tourist industry and it was fortunately never rolled out on a nationwide scale.

There is now a much more forward thinking party in power who are thinking of taking cannabis and its use the other way down the road, embracing it instead of shunning it. The Dutch Medical Office, (a government agency), is working with the city of Utrecht to trial a new scheme for medical users. This scheme plans to supply patients with a specially grown, government made hash for the treatment of mental disorders such as insomnia and psychosis.

Another cannabis scheme that will hopefully soon see the light is the setting up of a cannabis social club. Cannabis social clubs are collectives of cannabis users, normally medical patients, who band together to grow weed for personal/medical use amongst its members. You may think, well what's the point in that? Just go to a coffee shop and buy some! Well there is actually some very logical reasoning behind this. Currently, as mentioned, the cultivation of cannabis within the Netherlands is illegal. This means that the supply from coffee shops comes from illegal sources, which are often gangs of organized criminals. By allowing those in need to grow large amounts, to be legally and fairly distributed amongst themselves, you take a lot of the power out of the hands of these gangs whilst making sure it is only grown and used by those authorized to do so. Of course, this is just a trial for now, and is still facing government scrutiny - but should it come to pass, it bodes very well for the future of cannabis within this great country.



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