Drug legalization advocates cautiously optimistic cannabis cultivation will be allowed

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A group of regulated cannabis cultivation activists gathered in Amsterdam in early March to debate what regulated cultivation would look like in public. The general feeling seems to be one of cautious optimism, since the Dutch parliament approved a D66 initiated motion to regulate cannabis cultivation with a close majority. This would mean that cannabis will no longer need to be 'smuggled in through the back door' anymore, and instead can be openly produced under government supervision, enabling quality control.

Even though the recent coalition discussion between the VVD, CDA, D66 and GroenLinks have been halted due to the latter disagreeing with mostly immigration issue proposals, the former three parties are likely to continue talks as the so-called main 'motor bloc'. This could potentially put a strain on the law's development since the VVD and CDA have already publicly stated they cannot accept D66 Vera Bergman's motion as it is, RTL News reports.

Senator Marnix van Rij (CDA) says his party is against regulation. He fears Bergkamp's will "stimulate drugs tourism even further", while "the Netherlands already has a leading position regarding drugs". Senator Menno Knip (VVD) wants the Council of State to give new advice concerning the law. "Bergkamp chooses a difficult route. She fully integrates the currently existing tolerance construction into the law. I do not believe such a thing fits within the law."

In order for the law to be passed in the Senate as well, D66 will have to convince multiple politicians to change their vote to in favor. It is not clear yet when the vote will be held. Bergkamp will first answer Senators' questions, potentially followed up by a second round of questions and responses.

Thijs Roes, who is the drugs correspondent for De Correspondent and Vice and is co-founder of the Regulator, an online tool that teaches about the different forms of policy around cannabis regulation, is pleased that regulated cultivation now has the support of the parliament. Nevertheless, he points out that "a right wing cabinet could make [the regulation law's] passage in the Senate very tough", he said at Regulation Seminar in Pakhuis De Zwijger. 

In any case, Roes is happy that the topic is finally being discussed in the right circles. "Now [VVD politicians] are finally sitting down and really talking about the issue, and for some, maybe for the first time", he said "For too long, this has been a niche discussion, and now it's an election issue." He also criticized "murky Dutch politics", where the voice of the people is not taken into consideration often enough. "There's huge interest in the issue online, but not enough town hall-style discussion." He has also set out his ideas for the future of cannabis policy in a recent article in the Correspondent.

Roes' website, the Regulator, was launched in an effort to start the discussion about what form Dutch regulation of cannabis cultivation should take, and to inform people about the different types. "Instead of an endless discussion about whether we should regulate or not. We would like to discuss how we should do it", he said. By answering a number of questions on the website, you can find which of the eight types of regulation suits you best. Based on respondents so far, the Auction Model is currently most popular. It involves cultivators bringing their cannabis to an auction, where they are tested and packaged. Coffeeshops can then buy from the auction. "This way everybody pays taxes, the production chain is structured, and the quality is ensured", according to the Regulator.

Tom Blickman of the Transnational Institute, which was involved in the legalization of cannabis in Uruguay and Jamaica, gave a presentation at the Seminar about the international situation and how countries currently mostly regulate by themselves, according to The Rolling Stoned. "That means that international trade, which now occurs illegally, is kept out. And that has consequences for countries where cannabis is traditionally grown, such as Morocco." For them, the Netherlands regulating cannabis cultivation. is bad news - because cannabis regulation is largely concentrated in rich countries where financially strong companies will dominate the market, these unofficial growers who have counted on cannabis income sometimes for decades, fall by the wayside. He calls for a fair trade agreement.

D66 parliamentarian Vera Bergkamp was one of the last to speak. According to her, there is so much expertise on cannabis in the Netherlands. "There is an awful lot of knowledge, and I think we really need to use it. I've also learned how special this plant is, to tell the truth. I mean it's not often that you change the way you look at a plant, but it happened. It is a versatile plant, you can do a lot with it."

There are also increasingly more calls from citizens and municipal governments for the adoption of legal cannabis cultivation. Schagen's unanimous city council sent a letter to The Hague insisting that "Cannabis is a good remedy against the pain of many sick citizens. However, the substance is not covered by health insurance companies. Patients often choose to cultivate cannabis at home instead, although this is currently illegal by law."

The governing body in Schagen, Noord-Holland, hopes to urge the parliament to find a solution to the problem. They for instance suggest allowing cultivation for up to five cannabis plants at home. Some governing bodies in Twente concur that medicinal use should be included in health care coverage. 

Conversely, civil servants of the Dutch Ministries of Public Health and Security and Justice state that regardless of governmental expansion or reduction of cannabis tolerance, illegal cultivation will continue to exist, Trouw reports. They investigated three scenarios for the future of Dutch cannabis policy, including (1) the regulation of cannabis sales and cultivation, (2) an expansion of the current tolerance policy for coffeeshops towards cannabis cultivators, and (3) a total ban on both cannabis sales and cultivation. In the first two situations, they expect a significant segment of the cannabis production to continue to be exported rather than legally sold in coffeeshops. In the third scenario, supervisory costs would decrease but increasing street crime and nuisance would fully negate possible positive effects again.

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