At long last, the Netherlands is moving forwards with its plan to allow its popular cannabis cafes to sell legal weed.
Holland's new Wietexperiment (Weed Experiment) will officially allow licensed businesses to grow legal weed that can be sold at the country's popular pot coffeeshops. These growers will have a fairly free hand when it comes to choosing how to grow and sell their bud, especially compared to tightly-regulated US states. Legal growers will be able to set their own prices, and there is no limit to the amount of THC that can be included in a legal product. Officials only require that growers comply with the country's quality control, labeling, and packaging regulations.
Dutch officials drew up this plan in an effort to crack down on the country's thriving black market. Cannabis is actually illegal in the Netherlands, despite the country's reputation as the headiest country in Europe. The government has decriminalized personal use, though, by allowing adults to buy and smoke pot in specially-licensed coffeeshops located all around the country. But because cannabis is still technically illegal, these cafes must buy their weed from the black market.
As the name implies, the new program is indeed only an experiment. The pilot program will only last for six months, and is strictly limited to the southern provinces of Tilburg and Breda. Officials have licensed three companies to grow recreational bud, which can only be sold at licensed coffeeshops in these two provinces. Pot cafes will be allowed to stock up to 500 grams of legal bud at a time, and are also free to keep buying illegal weed as well.
"Together with Minister [of Justice] Yesilgoz-Zegerius, I am committed to making the cannabis experiment successful,” said Health Minister Ernst Kuipers in a press release reported by Forbes. “I also sense enthusiasm among all participants and am therefore pleased that we can take a first smaller step here even before the official start of the experiment."
If this all sounds familiar, it's because the Dutch government actually announced these plans back in 2019. Holland originally planned to allow 79 pot shops to start selling legal weed in 2021, but those plans were crushed by the pandemic. Now, after years of delay, officials are finally advancing a scaled-back version of the Wietexperiment. The new program will kick off this fall and wrap up in the first half of 2024. If the program is a success, officials will consider expanding it to other Dutch cities next year.
But although Netherlanders will eventually be able to smoke legal weed in their local coffeeshops, tourists likely won't. Around the same time that Holland initially proposed its weed pilot program, Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema announced a plan to ban all tourists from her city's renowned cannabis coffeeshops. These plans were also put on hold by the pandemic, but the city is now working to implement the ban this year. And starting this May, the city will ban both tourists and locals alike from smoking weed in the city's infamous red light district.