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Legality of CBD and cannabis in the Netherlands

Many people think that cannabis is completely legal in the Netherlands. However, the truth is much more complicated: the sale of small quantities of marijuana is permitted, but production and wholesale distribution are still considered illegal. And how does CBD figure into all this? To answer all these questions, I sat down with Derrick Bergman, one of the leading Dutch cannabis experts and legalization activists.

Expert interview: The cannabis situation in the Netherlands with Derrick Bergman

Could you briefly introduce yourself, as well as the organizations you represent in the Dutch and international cannabis space?

I am a freelance journalist, photographer and podcaster; specializing in cannabis since 1994. In 2009 I was one of the founders of VOC, the Dutch Union for the Abolition of Cannabis Prohibition, of which I am the current president. As a former president of ENCOD (European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies) and organizer of Cannabis Liberation Day in Amsterdam, and thanks to my reporting for Leafly and other international media, my cannabis network extends far beyond the Dutch borders.

Is CBD fully legal in the Netherlands? If so, in what forms and under what laws?

Typical of our confusing cannabis policy, there is a gray area even when it comes to CBD products. Last week, the mayor closed seven stores for tourists in the center of Amsterdam because they were selling joints pre rolled with CBD cannabis. . In a similar case, a judge ruled in December 2022 that selling these CBD-laced joints was illegal. The verdict states that the OpiumAct, the Dutch drug law, “does not distinguish between products with or without THC…. You can’t even sell hemp – without THC, because hemp (both with and without THC) is prohibited under the Opium Act.” The ruling also establishes that the sale of CBD oil is not prohibited. In practice, this means that all kinds of CBD products, such as lollipops and other edibles, are sold in tourist stores, CBD oil is sold in pharmacies and supermarkets, but CBD products are sold in pharmacies and supermarkets. CBD flowers and pre-rolled joints with CBD cannabis are quite hard to find.

Are CBD flowers sold in coffeeshops along with marijuana?

I rarely see CBD weed on the menu anymore. There was a short-lived flutter, with lots of CBD flower imported from Switzerland, but it didn’t last. It is not easy to assess whether there is enough demand, especially since there seems to be little supply of CBD cannabis in coffeeshops.

Are there any “CBD only” stores in cities / towns?

I know of a CBD specialty store in the southern city of Maastricht that also sold CBD in flower, but it was closed by the local authorities. The irony is that the number of these CBD stores is growing rapidly in our neighboring country, Belgium, where the laws around psychoactive cannabis are still very strict. Welcome to Europe!

Do you have any estimates on how many Dutch people use cannabis or THC / CBD products? Is it increasing or decreasing?

According to the most recent official figures, 1.1 million Dutch people over the age of 18 have used cannabis in the last year. That is 8% of the adult population. Consumption increased between 2015 and 2021. Nearly a quarter of a million people, 1.7 percent, use cannabis daily. 24.6 percent of the adult population has tried cannabis at least once in their lifetime. All these figures refer to psychoactive cannabis, marijuana, but there are no reliable figures on the consumption of CBD products, as far as I know.

Is medical cannabis legal in the Netherlands? How is it in books and how is it in practice?

Yes, medical cannabis was legalized in 2001 and has been available in pharmacies since 2003. There is only one licensed producer, Bedrocan, but this is finally going to change as more producers will be licensed. Doctors are very reluctant to prescribe cannabis and no insurance company will reimburse the costs. The price of Bedrocan cannabis has dropped to an average of 8 euros per gram, cheaper than that sold in coffeeshops. Legal cannabis oil, made from Bedrocan cannabis herb, is still very expensive, up to €178 for a small bottle.

Are you familiar with the “HHC affair” in Europe? What is it like in the Netherlands?

At the moment there is no ban on HHC and HHC vaporizers and edibles have appeared in some coffee shops since late 2022. CAN, an industry group of companies that sell CBD products, has advised its members not to sell HHC products in January 2023.

What are the latest developments in cannabis policies in your country?

The ban on tourists entering Amsterdam’s coffeeshops is scrapped and instead, a ban on smoking cannabis in public space will be introduced in May throughout the Red Light District. After a series of delays with the so-called legal marijuana experiment, a new phase was introduced. In this phase, two of the eleven cities participating in the experiment will start selling “legal” cannabis, produced by only three of the ten selected producers. This is scheduled to begin this October, in the southern cities of Breda and Tilburg. A recent positive development was the visit of our Minister of Health, Ernst Kuipers, who was responsible for the marijuana experiment, to Canada to learn about his experiences with the legalization of recreational cannabis.

About Derrick Bergman

Derrick Bergman is a Dutch journalist, photographer, podcaster and activist who has been covering cannabis culture since 1994. He is the founder and current president of VOC, the union for the abolition of cannabis prohibition. Derrick is a father of three and has been growing his own cannabis for nearly three decades. You can listen to the English episodes of the High Tea Podcast, hosted by Derrick and Rens, through this link.

* Interview adapted from the original by Cannactiva.

Lukas Hurt
Cannabis activist : Journalist focusing on cannabis-related issues in Central Europe

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