While the Netherlands has long been praised for its liberal approach to cannabis creating one of the largest cannaba-toursim markets in the world, in many ways, the Dutch cannabis paradise has a long way to go when it comes to standards for its green.
Even though it’s legal for Dutch citizens to buy up to five grams of cannabis for personal use, the government has limited regulations in place to ensure what its citizens are buying is up to standards…. any standards.
In Amsterdam, the industry’s legal status does not require coffeeshops to test their cannabis before selling it to consumers making it a gamble for what products people are actually getting.
While potency labeling (accuracy aside) has become a standard for retail cannabis in the United States, most Dutch coffeeshops do not provide users any lab-backed cannabinoid content or batch information making cannabis quality control nearly non-existent.
With somewhere around 400 coffeeshops in the Netherlands, there is certainly some questionablequality cannabis circulating. But a growing group of coffeeshop owners have decided to take things into their own hands and set quality standards for their product.
Tara van der Poel, owner of a coffeeshop called Dizzy Duck, is one of the first coffeeshops in the Netherlands to perform batch testing on their cannabis. “There’s a lot of bad weed around. All kinds of stuff is added to increase weight. That’s why I’m so happy that everything is tested now” Van der Poel told Leafly magazine in a recent interview.
Despite the large group of those lobbying for looser regulations around cultivation, distribution and testing protocols, it remains difficult for coffeeshop owners who want to create quality assurance to do so. One of the biggest obstacles is the prohibition around coffeeshops altering their flowers in any way, which is the way most potency testing has been performed until recently.
What’s accounting for the lack of quality control?
As countries around the world begin legalizing cannabis, the once progressive nation is starting to lag in its country’s grip on cannabis. Cannabis in the Netherlands is still technically illegal but decriminalized and ‘tolerated’ for recreational use in limited amounts.
Because growing more than five cannabis plants is still very much illegal, exactly how coffeeshops get their supplies is rarely investigated. However, similar to the outdated stance by the United States army, the Dutch government takes on a sort of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when it comes to its nations coffeeshops. The perpetual turning of a blind eye does not go without harm to its country’s cannabis users.
“The most difficult thing about having a coffee shop in the Netherlands is that it’s allowed to sell it, but it’s not allowed to buy it” said Joachim Helms, co-owner of Green House Coffeeshops in Amsterdam.
Because licensed coffeeshops can buy and sell limited quantities of cannabis, they have begun to turning to the black or grey market to fulfil the high demand for product. Although you can call the black and grey markets lots of things, reliable and transparent probably won’t be one of them.
“Right now, you are allowed to buy the milk, but you can’t know anything about the cow,” said Vera Bergkamp, a Dutch lawmaker.
It only takes a few determined individuals to change things, and we have faith the wonderful coffeeshop owners dedicated to improving quality assurance for the safety and benefit of their customers will overcome the often-challenging Dutch regulations.
As new potency testing tools allowing for easier, cheaper, and less destructive in-house testing hit the market, there is new hope that the nations quality control in cannabis will turn over a new leaf.