LEGAL STATUS OF CANNABIS IN THE NETHERLANDS
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1. Consumption and possession
Recreational cannabis use is allowed but in practice it is restricted to private places, or specific places like coffeeshops. In most restaurants and cafe’s it is not allowed. Cannabis possession for personal recreational consumption of up to 30 grams is a misdemeanor and is not prosecuted in practice. Medicinal use of cannabis is legalised in a strict formal fashion. Patients are to obtain a prescription from their GP’s for their pharmacy that will provide them with government produced medicinal cannabis (which is more expensive than average weed from coffeeshops.)
Up to five plants has a “low priority for prosecution” - still, police might confiscate the plants. More than 5 plants is a crime and there is a gliding scale of fines and even imprisonment for larger amounts.
Coffeeshops that have a "gedoogvergunning" (a license from the municipality that says the coffeeshop is tolerated) may sell max 5 grams per customer, on strict conditions such as: no hard drugs, no alcohol (except for certain coffeeshops in Amsterdam), no people under 18 allowed in the premises, no advertising or solliciting cannabis sale and a few other conditions that vary from town to town like for example distance from schools. Cannabis oil is regarded a hard drug and therefore strictly forbidden.
4. Provision of seeds, tools to produce and consume cannabis etc.
The provision or sale of seeds is legal but the growth of cannabis seeds is only allowed in the open air. The Netherlands do not have laws prohibiting tools to produce or use cannabis.
5. Production and distribution of hemp products
The production and distribution of hemp products not containing relevant amounts of THC is legal. The production and distribution of products containing relevant amounts of THC (such as hash oil or cake) is forbidden.
From 2001 the limit of small amount of Cannabis is 5 g. The sale of not more than 30 gramms is not prosecuted.In case of "hard drugs" (all illicit drugs but Cannabis) the offender is not prosecuted if he possess not more than 0,2 g, he can face 6-18 months of jail if the amount is between 15 and 300 gramms, if the amount is more than 300 g, the jail time can range from 18 months to 4 years.
Contact for Cannabis Activism in The Netherlands:
POLICIES ON OTHER DRUGS
Dutch policies are based on a fundamental revision of the ’Opium Law’ that took place in 1976. Supported by a broad consensus among the political parties, this revision established the legal provisions for on the one hand, far going experiments with harm reduction and on the other, tolerance towards cannabis use and distribution. Use of drugs is not a criminal offence, and possession of small quantities for personal use is usually not prosecuted. For cannabis this quantity is 5 grammes.
Recent Figures from the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction show that the percentage of cannabis use among young people in the Netherlands is below the European average. This in spite of the fact that access to cannabis for adults is easier than in any other country in the world.
Harm reduction programmes are carried out by both private and public agencies, and include needle exchange programmes (since the early 1980’s), pill testing since the early 90’s, although this service is no longer available at parties because of current market complexity, an expanding number of consumer rooms (since 1996) and trials with heroin prescription to a limited number of users (since 1998). Experiences with these programmes have been positive, both with regards to the situation of the users (their health and their possibilities to integrate in society have improved) and with regards to the integration of the phenomenon in society.
In the past years, media reports focussed on the proposal of the government to end the prosecution of traffickers caught at Schiphol Airport with less than 3 kilos of cocaine (they will be sent back to the country of origin). Other issues of concern are coffeeshop tourism in the border area, police raids on growers who supply to coffeeshops, forced withdrawal treatment in the penitentiary system, zero tolerance policies targeting drug users in big cities.
Dutch parliament instructed the government in 2002 to promote it’s liberal policy abroad as foreign attitudes were considered the major obstacle stopping the Dutch from moving legalisation of cannabis. The current conservative cabinet seems keen on further intensifying scores of repressive measures. Local governments, faced with the many problems prohibition causes, tend to be more lenient and pragmatic.
The Dutch still think they have a lead in Drug Policy Reform, but are afraid to trumpet it. The authorities feel that Dutch drug policy is highly controversial and widely condemned. Reason for them not to support moving ahead. Quite contrary, a lot of what has been constructed over the last 25 years, today risks being destroyed by conservative thinking, international pressure and European harmonisation of legislation.
Public support for present policies is considered to be large (in opinion polls, a majority of voters approves the liberal policy towards cannabis). A parliamentary resolution to legalise cannabis production (to solve the backdoor dilemma) was approved by parliament in 2000, but the government refuses to carry it out.
CONTACTS FOR DRUG POLICY REFORM:
MDHG (Amsterdam drug users association), Tel. +31 20 624 47 75
STICHTING DRUGSBELEID (Dutch drug policy foundation)
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