12 March 2015
By Ellen Holland*
Word from Vienna today: a Volcano vaporizer has graced the floor of the United Nations as part of a side-presentation associated with the 58th session of the United Nation’s Commission of Narcotic Drugs. The commission, which began last week and continues through March 17, includes “around 1,000 delegates representing Member States, inter-governmental organizations, civil society and the media for a global discussion on the world drug problem.”
During the 10-day meeting of the CND, many side events will also take place. Today, Dutch drug reform journalist Derrick Bergman gave a presentation on medical cannabis in the Netherlands in a companion event organized by Encod – the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies. Medical cannabis, which has been available through Dutch pharmacies since 2003, still faces many hurdles in terms of patient access, according to Bergman’s presentation. While the first cannabis coffeeshop opened in the Netherlands in 1973, medical cannabis in the Netherlands didn’t go official until spring of 2000 with the foundation for the Office for Medicinal Cannabis.
“There is a solid monopoly on the production of medical cannabis in my country,” Bergman said. “Bedrocan is the only company that has an exception from the Opium Law, the law that deals with illegal drugs. It might be good to stress here that cannabis is still an illegal substance in the Netherlands; the coffeeshops are officially still breaking the law everyday. This is our famous, or infamous, “gedoogbeleid” or “condoning policy.”
Bergman explains that a bitter war was fought from 2000 to 2003 for the “privilege of being the only legal producer.”
Pioneers of the industry, were left out in the cold as Bedrocan – which also exports to Italy, Germany, Finland, Norway, Switzerland and the Czech Republic – was left to develop and provide only two varieties of medicinal cannabis available to Dutch citizens for years. This year, Bedrocan is releasing a new strain, Bedrolite, which contains approximately 9 percent CBD and .04 percent THC. This new strain, Bergman explained, brings the company’s strain offerings up to five.
“Compared to the menu of the average cannabis coffeeshop, five varieties is not a lot of choice,” he said. “Compared to the situation in American states that have implemented medicinal cannabis regulation through dispensaries, it’s even worse.”
The price of a gram, 9 Euros for Bedrocan and between 4 to 5 Euros at coffeeshops, is also disparate and, just last month, the Dutch Supreme Court ruled cannabis purchased through coffeeshops cannot be deducted as healthcare costs. In addition, the Dutch police are raiding patients for growing as little as six plants.
During Bergman’s presentation today, a Volcano – as well as a Bedrocan sample – made their way to the home of the UN.
*Ellen Holland started working at Cannabis Now Magazine on April 21st because she was busy on 4/20. She has served as the magazine’s production manager and associate editor and is passionate about cannabis legalization. Follow her on twitter @hollandbuds.