The Dutch cabinet has been informed by a cohort of cannabis growers that they will not be ready to commence cultivation on the planned start date for the government-backed trial.
The experiment for controlled cannabis cultivation in the Netherlands was initially due to kick off in 2021; however, this was later pushed back to Q1 of 2023.
It is now possible that the new start date could shift to the back-end of next year, after nine of the ten companies – approved to take part in the trial – wrote to the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport, Ernst Kuipers, and the Minister of Justice and Security, Dilan Yeṣilgöz-Zegerius about significant issues they had been facing.
Cannabis Cultivation Trial in the Netherlands
The foundations for this trial were actually laid out five years ago, with the project intended to serve as a mechanism to remove the grey area between licensed cannabis stores and illegal growing facilities.
The current state of play means that authorities often turn a blind eye to how cannabis is procured by cafes and coffee shops. Albeit legal for people to purchase cannabis from said retailers, cultivation and supplying the plant remains illegal. This grey zone is bridged by the ‘tolerance policy’ in the Netherlands.
Although there was support for this programme amongst a large number of Dutch MPs, seeing it as a potential way to reduce the influence of organised crime in the market for soft drugs, this was not reflected by the five biggest cities in the country who refused to participate in the four year trial.
After much political jostling, ten municipalities – Arnhem, Almere, Breda, Groningen, Heerlen, Hellevoetsluis, Maastricht, Nijmegen, Tilburg and Zaanstad – agreed to participate.
Despite the government’s readiness for the trial, it seems that all is not well with the companies approved to grow the plant within this scheme.
The letter sent to ministers in June, as seen by NRC, highlighted infrastructural issues that need to be overcome before cultivation operations commence.
Perhaps most pertinently, some of the companies still haven’t been able to open bank accounts, due to concerns of breaches to their anti-money laundering policies.
This would present a huge red flag as a stand alone issue; however, trouble for the cannabis growers has been compounded by rising energy costs, paired with price rises and delayed delivery timelines for building materials.
Moreover, NRC reports that the companies have also been experiencing issues with “the track & trace system that the government set up for the experiment”, where growers are expected to register levels of production and the vendors they sell product to.
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