Cannabis Law In The Netherlands

February 6, 2017


It is a common misconception that cannabis is legal in the Netherlands. Cannabis was decriminalized in the1970s.

In this episode, Simon Moker from International High Life discusses cannabis laws in the Netherlands.


The Netherlands And Its Cannabis Law

There are over two hundred fifty (250) different coffee shops in Amsterdam alone. Government regulated and approved, these shops follow strict guidelines in order to operate.

Cannabis has been decriminalized. This does not mean it is legal. This simply means up to a certain amount is legal to have on one’s person for personal use. Anything above that amount is subject to criminal prosecution. In the Netherlands, Up to five (5) grams is acceptable for one to possess.



The coffee shops in the Netherlands are allowed to have only five hundred (500) grams of cannabis on site. If a customer is allowed to buy five grams at a time, that greatly limits the amount of sales each coffee shop can have.  

Once the five hundred grams are sold, how does the coffee shop replenish their stock? The personal possession limit is five grams. In order to restock the coffee shops, the proprietor has to break the law and risk great penalties. Not having stock risks loss of business.



Some coffee shops tend to operate under the grey areas of the law. Where the cannabis comes from and how they get it is a grey area in itself. While the coffee shop is technically limited to its amount, there is no real documented tally kept restricting sales. As long as they have the stock, they are allowed to sell.

It has always been illegal to grow cannabis in he Netherlands. Although the government allows the coffee shops to operate, how and where the cannabis is procured is not questioned.



This two-sided approach to the law creates turmoil among the community. If the sale and distribution of cannabis isn’t going to be prosecuted or enforced, why have prohibitive laws on the books at all!?

Black market cannabis has become the main source for cannabis in the Netherlands. Along with this negative connotation comes the very real fact that there are few other choices available.


An overwhelming majority of the mayors in communities in the Netherlands are all calling out for legalization. The availability of cannabis to foreigners is at the discretion of each community. Should the limitations on amount be lifted, the profits for smaller communities are immense.

Keeping the coffee shops stocked within the legal parameters is restrictive. Often ineffective with being able to keep up with demand, many coffee shops are forced to limit their clientele to local customers only.

Playing in the grey zone allows the coffee shops to keep stocked and not unit sales.

The hope is that all growth and possession be legalized. Doing so would allow unrestricted access to product, thus allowing unrestricted business. Unrestricted business means unlimited profit. Profit leads to taxes. Taxes lead to tax revenue. Tax revenue leads to happy politicians. Happy politicians means happy citizens.

We all want to be happy citizens,yes?

Cannabis tourism accounts for one in four visitors to the Netherlands. Reworking the restrictive constraints of the current laws could offer great benefits for all upstanding citizens. Allowing one to grow their own product would eliminate the need to smuggle in he product necessary to maintain a coffee shop in Amsterdam or anywhere else in the Netherlands.

In 2011, the Dutch government issued new guidelines for cannabis production. Until this point, one could personally grow up to five plants and remain within the legal limits.

New restrictions on growing have made significant impact on the current status. Using certain seeds and/or soils could qualify one as a “professional grower”. Lighting and ventilation restrictions are also being enforced to the same end. Being labeled as a “professional grower” can open one up for criminal prosecution as well as governmental backlash.



More than half of the national population lives in government subsidised housing. One labeled as a ”professional grower” would likely face eviction from the government housing. The label comes along with the all inclusive membership to the blacklist club.

Many coffee shops grow their own and don’t care about quality. The demand by far outweighs the supply. In most cases, people must take what they get. If the quality isn’t even remotely decent, that is not their problem. They are allowed to sell bud. They are not required to sell good bud…

Times are changing. The laws should adjust accordingly. As awareness of truths and acknowledgement of fact becomes more commonplace, society should be allowed to govern for their own benefit. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

The many need reform. The wheels are turning but the gears need oil.

We cannot expect change if we do not call for it.



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