Dutch parliament narrowly votes to OK cannabis cultivation

Holland has long been famous for selling retail cannabis long before other supposedly civilized countries did.

But it’s always been illegal to actually grow it anywhere in the Netherlands, although perhaps not for long after Members of Parliament narrowly approved a bill today 77 to 72 that would allow for cultivation, removing a legal grey area that allowed so-called “coffee shops” to sell pot but unable to supply themselves without fear of prosecution.

The new measure would create a regulated supply chain, with some suppliers permitted to grow their own stash, and remove the legal loophole that left retail outlets open to charges of transporting products to their stores. To come into law, the bill still has to be approved in the Dutch senate.

“This is an important step to end a stalemate which has taken far too long,” said Dutch MP Vera Bergkamp. “It finally ends the current skew tolerance policy where you can sell weed but cannot grow or buy it.”

Cannabis sales and use have been permitted at licensed venues since 1976, yet at the same time Dutch police have gone after those who grow it. Dutch police got rid of nearly 6,000 plantations in 2015 alone, according to Dutch newspaper NRC.

This policy discrepancy led to criminal gangs becoming heavily involved in pot production, according to the bill’s supporters. They also argue that allowing its cultivation would reduce the grip of organized crime on supply and cut its export to other countries.

Local politicians in cities such as Amsterdam have cracked down on coffee shops in recent years, with stricter rules in areas close to schools, enforcement of 18-plus age limits, and ramped up efforts to curb so-called drug tourism.

As a consequence, the number of Amsterdam coffee shops has gone from roughly 350 back in the 1990s to around 175 today.