Coffee shops in Tilburg and Breda may be able to take part in the experiment with regulated marijuana as early as October, ministers have agreed.
The full trial will not take place until 2024 but ministers have now agreed to a ‘run-up’ involving the two southern cities because they are almost ready to go.
In total, 10 towns and cities have signed up for the experiment but on Tuesday Amsterdam said it was hoping to join in by putting one of its seven boroughs forward.
Three growers will take part in the initial phase, supplying all the licenced coffee shops in the two towns. Each outlet may only have a maximum of 500 grammes of ‘legal’ weed in stock, but can also continue to buy from their old, illegal growers.
The ‘wietexperiment’ was first approved by the senate in 2019 after several years but has since stalled for a variety of reasons. The aim of the run-up is to ‘practice with all the processes and systems’, health minister Ernst Kuipers said.
The minister told MPs that the initial period would last for six months and that he then hoped other cities would come on board.
Cannabis cafes, known euphemistically as coffee shops, are licenced by local councils but have to buy on the illegal circuit. The aim of the experiment is to remove the gray area, while cutting back on nuisance and crime.
Ten growers were originally selected for the trial but one has since lost their permit and only one of the others is ready to start. In particular, growers are finding it difficult to get a bank account because of banks’ concerns about potential money laundering.
Justice minister Dilan Yesilgöz told MPs that it is up to banks themselves who they open accounts for but said that they should be clearer about what conditions they require for acceptance.
Tilburg and Breda mayors both welcomed the news that they will kick off the experiment. ‘Finally we can take the first steps toward legalising soft drugs,’ Tilburg mayor Theo Weterings said.
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