Legal status of marijuana in The Netherlands
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Holland, and Amsterdam in particular has been the centre of cannabis coolness for decades. It is absolutely THE place to go if you want to chill, and hang out in the coffeeshops famous the world over. Yes, the Dutch call them 'coffeeshop', 1 word, not 'coffee shop' with two words.
Anyway, it does not get any better than this. For now, Holland remains the only place where coffeeshops can operate the way they do and where everyone above 18 years old can enter and buy weed.
In the last ten years the Dutch government did their best to get rid of their reputation being a 'marijuana paradise'. Despite the horror stories of crackdowns on coffeeshops the past decade, the death of the industry and discouraging tourists... please relax. No need to worry. There are still plenty (close to 200) established coffeeshops in Amsterdam alone. After a massive crackdown by authorities between 2012-2014, things are more or less back to normal.
That said, there were a few casualties beyond closed coffeeshops as a result of this recent backlash. The famed “Cannabis Cup” from High Times is no longer held in Amsterdam. The 2014 showdown between the organizers and authorities plus other opportunities elsewhere have ended that tradition.
Is this still ganja vacation heaven? You bet. Hassle free, decently priced, and amazing varieties await you.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA IN THE NETHERLANDS
Yes, medical marijuana is legal in Holland when you have a prescription from a physician. Up until 2017, most Dutch insurers covered medical use and patient numbers are increasing.
That said, this issue appears to be going in reverse right now. Citing lack of data about the efficacy of use, Dutch insurers are currently backing away from coverage leaving patients having to scramble to adjust. The situation is currently very fluid.
If you are a medical user, you should probably think of other ways to get your drug for now if you can.
RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA IN THE NETHERLANDS
Recreational weed is not legal in Amsterdam/Holland.
Shocked? Most people are when they hear that weed is not legal in Amsterdam. But it really isn't. But again, no worries. The Dutch created their own 'Policy of tolerance' for this.
Essentially, while definitions are still hard to pin down, the Dutch see cannabis as a “soft” drug. Soft drugs are not legal in Holland, but tolerated. This basically means authorities 'officially' close their eyes when it comes to cannabis use and possession.
Coffeeshops are allowed to sell maximum 5 grams a day to each customer above 18. Although it's OK for coffeeshops to sell weed to consumers, it's illegal for them to grow cannabis. This means coffeeshops are forced to buy their stash on the black market.
In other words, coffeeshops are not able to purchase their product in a legal way, but when the product is inside their establishment, it's OK for them to sell it. How is this possible? Only the Dutch know. In Holland they call this issue 'the backdoor problem'.
For you, as a consumer... Do not smoke on the street, even though technically it is OK to do so if not causing a disturbance. Don’t smoke around kids or schools. Keep your ID about you. Be over 18. The coffeeshops will get busted if they sell you pot if you are under age. So they do check.
WHAT COULD HAPPEN IF YOU WERE TO GET CAUGHT BY THE POLICE WITH CANNABIS ON YOUR PERSON?
If you're older than 18, basically nothing. Don’t have more than 5 grams on you when you're outside. Don't have more than 30 grams inside your house.
Holland will legalize weed some day, we have no doubt about that. But at this moment we do not expect any big changes soon.
The legalization issue comes up every year. Especially local politicians are fed up with that so-called backdoor problem for coffeeshops and want to have this fixed. But the national government isn't willing to do anything about this at the moment. We suspect they're closely watching what happens in surrounding countries as Germany and France.
The sudden decision this year to back away from medical insurance coverage has been a huge blow to patients. Do not expect this issue to fall off the charts. It may also become a rallying cry for not only more reform, but Dutch medical research.