When you think of Amsterdam, you probably imagine hazy smoke-filled “coffee shops” packed with stoners and tourists eager to puff on some legal stuff. And while that vivid picture wouldn’t necessarily be incorrect, you might be surprised to learn that the cultivation of cannabis in the Netherlands illegal.
But earlier this week, the Dutch lower house of Parliament moved the country one step closer to their own cultivation industry. The house voted 77 to 72 on a proposal to regulate a cannabis production supply chain. The measure would also eliminate a loophole that allows coffee shop sellers to be prosecuted for transportation.
Though the vote did not receive support from the leading Liberal party, the Labour party was fully behind it. The proposal must pass a Senate majority vote before it is ingrained into law. Supporters have argued that a system would stop the coffee shops dependency on the black market.
The cannabis situation in the Netherlands is a progressive, yet confounding one. Coffee shops are against the law, but tolerated. Other than that, the sale and cultivation of cannabis are completely prohibited. While the country has a relatively soft stance on use, the police cracked down on almost 6,000 grow operations in 2015.
Reports show that nearly 500,000 Dutch people use cannabis on a monthly basis, and Democrats 66 party MP Vera Bergkamp believes that a regulated system would ensure better public health and safety. Her party is pushing to include the production of hashish into the law as well. Backers of the proposal also argue that a regulatory system would help stop trade with criminal organizations.
According to Forbes, economists have estimated that the government made between 650 million and 1.05 billion euros in 2014 from tax revenue and tourism. With somewhere around 700 coffee shops operating throughout the country, there’s little reason for the Dutch not to welcome cultivation into their prosperous system.