First Legal Weed Arrives in Dutch Coffeeshops

Stephen Andrews
15 Dec 2023

The Netherlands officially launched its long-planned legal cannabis experiment as of this week. Cannabis users in two cities, Breda and Tilburg, can now purchase legal weed from 19 coffeeshops that are participating in a government-backed program. A few more Dutch cities are expected to join the initiative in 2024.

Five years after the initial announcement, Dutch authorities have finally kicked off the national cannabis experiment, which has an ultimate purpose to see if the Netherlands can establish a fully legal cannabis market, one strictly regulated by the government. 

As part of the experiment, ten cannabis cultivators have been licensed to cultivate weed and supply dozens of coffeeshops in Breda and Tilburg, starting December 15th. The plan is to expand the legal produce and retail in eight other municipalities by the next year, including cities such as Groningen and Maastricht. The experiment is expected to last at least four years. 

An Experiment with a View on Legalization

In the first phase of the cannabis experiment in the Netherlands, some 19 participating coffee shops in Breda and Tilburg will be permitted to sell both legally cultivated flower as well as unregulated produce. 

Six months into the experiment, somewhere in the summer of 2024, all participating coffee shops will go through a two-month transition period. When the transition period ends, the participating shops will be required to sell legal weed only. 

As part of the low-profile launch of the experiment, Dutch Health minister Ernst Kuipers, joined Breda’s mayor Paul Delpa and Tilburg’s mayor Theo Weterings during a morning visit to one of Breda’s participating weed shops. The minister and the mayors unpacked the first box of legal weed and scanned the first barcodes on the occasion. 

“From my perspective as the health minister, the most important thing is that we have excellent control over production and quality,” Kuipers told Dutch News. “This will prevent contamination from toxic chemical drugs as we see in other parts of Europe.” 

The health minister also said that the experiment hopefully leads to a reduction in cannabis use throughout the country, in particular use among young people. 

“The one message to consumers is to always think about the use of any product and be well informed,” the minister said. 

If the Netherlands' cannabis experiment turns out successful, it may result in abandoning the old “tolerance” policy which Dutch authorities have practiced on cannabis use since the 1970s. Ultimately, it can pave the way to full decriminalization of cannabis and lead to the creation of an entirely legal market with government-regulated products. 

The experiment is supposed to give greater insights about what happens when the government takes over control over all cannabis production and cultivation processes. Authorities will collect data on how legal weed affects crime rates and whether rates of frequency use drop among other things. 

An annual survey published in November by the Trimbos Institute showed that there are roughly one million enjoyers of weed in the Netherlands. The same survey also reports a rise in “risky” marijuana use, with around 240,000 people falling in the category of problematic cannabis use. 

The experiment will be monitored by independent researchers, and it’s not aimed to expand and include other types of drugs such as cocaine or ecstasy. 

Also read on Soft Secrets:

What is the Cannabis Experiment?

Amsterdam Enforces Smoking Ban

Will Germany Legalize Marijuana in 2024?

Stephen Andrews