Assessing the Dutch Cannabis Experiment in the Context of International and European law

Assessing the Dutch Cannabis Experiment in the Context of International and European law

August 13, 2020

Authors: Alice Guardalben


Published: August 13, 2020

Pages: 48

Publisher: Invictus Corporation Ltd.


The Netherlands has a long-standing tolerance policy towards soft drugs, marijuana and hashish in particular. Since the 1970s the country has not only decriminalised possession and use of small quantities of cannabis for adults, but also condoned its sale in licensed outlets, known as coffee shops, adhering to national and local requirements. However, the current policy is not without problems. Whereas the law set strict rules for the sale of cannabis, production and cultivation remain unregulated and prohibited. This had led both local municipalities and supranational bodies to voice their concerns over the link between the supply of cannabis to coffee shops and organised crime. On November 12, 2019, the Dutch Senate approved Bill 34997 (Kamerstukken II 2018/19, 34997, nr. 6, blz. 30) authorising a controlled cannabis supply chain experiment in 10 municipalities. The experiment will allow the Government to determine whether it is possible to supply quality-controlled cannabis, produced by licensed growers, to coffee shops. Proponents of cannabis legalisation, hope that, following the experiment, the Netherlands will join Uruguay and Canada in the establishment of a regulated cannabis market. A policy shift will most likely cause tensions with the international and European drug control framework, which are unfavourable to the regulation of cannabis for non-medical and non-scientific purposes. This report examines various alternatives available to States to legalise cannabis while meeting their international obligations. Considering the policy approach adopted by Uruguay and Canada, the report further highlights which elements the Dutch legislator should take into account when evaluating the next steps moving forwards.


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