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The Dutch cannabis industry was born in a grey area. Now, however, things appear to be changing. Social justice minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus told parliament that ministers will soon publish proposals for the planned legal marijuana cultivation trial. The idea is to understand how to finally, formally regulate a long semi-legit industry.
In fact, the government has little choice. The incoming administration pledged to deal with an issue that has grown perennially more front and center. Why? Legalization is elsewhere. Regulation just across the border.
The Dutch cannabis issue has also gotten to be more of a sticky wicket, starting with their European neighbors. As a result, the experiment with cultivating marijuana in an effort to remove the confusions between illicit supply and licensed shops and cafes. It is also clearly an effort to cut down on the amount of product that now moves fairly freely between Schengen states. In other places, marijuana is treated differently. That starts with Germany but does not end there.
A specialist commission is now due to report on its recommendations by the end of May. At that point, both Grapperhaus and health minister Bruno Bruins will make a final decision. How the final form and implementation of even the trial is not set yet. But it will soon be.
The experiment is planned to run for four years. It will take place in between 6-10 local authority areas. After that, the trial will be wound down for a six-month final evaluation.
25 of the 380 local authorities had signaled their desire to participate in the trial by November 2017. In Rotterdam, a major port, local authorities want to include distribution as well as production.
The Dutch, of course, are not the only ones looking at regulatory infrastructure. Either for cultivation or distribution. Just about every other western country is too now. However, the difference between here and California and Canada is huge. Because this is a voluntary approach, there are no districts which feel obliged to participate. In other places, participation is mandatory. Changes in the law have also led to massive disruptions. That starts with the start of lots of litigation and fines that are applied to those who do not or cannot pay regulation and registration fees.
In the Netherlands, the skeleton of the system is already set up. The Dutch coffeeshop system has also already faced similar pains of its own over the past decade. This is clearly the next step to establishing a fully regulated recreational cannabis market. And as always, the Dutch, in their inimitable ways, are always a step ahead of everyone else.