Legislation regarding coffee shops in the Netherlands

After half a century that coffee shops exist, most Dutch people are used to the presence of shops that cannabis sell in public. However, it is not as obvious as it may seem at first glance, as the laws governing the sale of weed and hasj in the Netherlands is 'special' to say the least. This has everything to do with the so-called tolerance policy, which is a uniquely Dutch phenomenon. You can read about this legislation in this blog.

Toleration policy

To comply with the current legislation regarding the sale of cannabis to understand, we have to go back to the early 70s. More and more problems arose in society as a result of the rise of mainly hard drugs, such as heroin. The government considered it necessary to make a distinction between hard drugs and soft drugs in order to tackle the problem more effectively. People who owned cannabis, which was classified as a soft drug, were now no longer prosecuted, provided they did not have too much in their pocket. The sale of cannabis was also condoned as a result of the distinction, provided the outlets adhered to certain rules. Thus the tolerance policy was born!

Stricter rules

Thanks to the tolerance policy regarding cannabis, which is still unique in the world, created a favorable coffee shop climate. Until the mid-90s there seemed to be no brake on the increase in the number of cannabis shops, but stricter regulations from 1996 onwards saw a sharp decline in the number of shops. The age for purchasing weed went up, and coffee shops were only allowed to have a stock of no more than 500 grams in the store.

Current situation

Coffee shop laws have changed little since then, except in 2007 when the sale of alcohol in cannabis shops was banned, and since 2014, coffee shops are required to be at least 350 meters from a school. However, the last rule appears to be difficult to enforce in practice, and is also handled flexibly. In recent years there have also been experiments with a 'weed pass', with which you could only get weed as a registered member at a certain coffee shop. This experiment led to more illegal trade on the street, so it was quickly stopped.

The illegal back door

For the time being, the entire legislation regarding coffee shops is still flawed, stating that they can legally sell their weed, but that they must purchase this weed from illegal growers. As a result, there is often crime at the back door of coffee shops that the government has no control over. In addition, the quality of the weed in many cases this cannot be guaranteed, because the growers have to work clandestinely and are not monitored. Despite the fact that this illogical legislation creates problems, it also created the opportunity for coffee shops in the Netherlands to flourish with all the positive consequences that there may be. At the time of writing this blog, it doesn't look like cannabis legislation in the Netherlands will change in the short term. For the time being, cannabis will not remain legal, but tolerated.

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