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Can Amsterdam's Coffee Shops Survive European Cannabis Legalization?

A new trial program could spell the beginning of the end.

This story originally appeared on

If the dilemmas of finding out how to legitimately certify a marijuana market in the United States and Canada as well have been filled with drama, the problems in the Europe market are going to be no less severe.


Right now, in Germany, the entirety of the debate is being put on a deep freeze due to various excuses, of which some are the ongoing pandemic, if not the war in Ukraine, despite the constant clamor about its inevitability.

The creators of the eponymous coffee shop, the Dutch, who are just across the Schengen border, are presently beginning to experience their growing pains when discussing creating a legal, authorized, national market.

What are coffee shops?

In the Netherlands, coffee shops are places where the selling of cannabis for personal consumption is allowed by the local authorities. They are also known as cannabis stores.

The sale of cannabis products in small quantities is permitted under Dutch drug policy by licensed coffee shops. Drinks and meals are available at the majority of these establishments. Coffeeshops are not authorized to serve alcohol or other drugs, and if they are caught selling soft drugs, hard drugs, or alcohol to minors, they risk being shut down.

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Getting the national industry authorized

The cannabis stores that function in the biggest cities will still possess unauthorized personal cultivation. Nevertheless, with the exclusion of these stories, the Dutch government established a national cultivation proffer to deliver to ten cities that have regulated cannabis. This program is still on a trial basis. It will also be examined to observe how the idea works as well as what impacts it has on the general population and its ability to prevent cannabis from getting into the hands of teenagers and children.

The trial program is scheduled to kick off in the next year. At that juncture, the marijuana that has been grown during the trial period will then be shipped off to these various establishments, and all the cannabis stores that are situated in a city that is participating will be required to purchase their marijuana from the government-certified program. They risk losing their permit if they do not purchase cannabis from the program. However, this does not mean that cannabis stores can not purchase from other cultivators.

The market will be supplied by ten growers who won the right to participate in a cultivation bid. Although, at this point, the number of growers who have qualified to participate is just seven. The growers must be able to prove that they do not have a history of lawbreaking and they can get their cultivation facilities.

The centralization of the cannabis business does not make the owners of cannabis stores in these locations very zealous. There is doubt by a lot of people that the quality of cannabis they will get from these cultivators will not be up to par with the ones that they previously produced, which will very definitely restrict the selection of marijuana on offer. That problem has yet to be taken into consideration by the government.

As soon as the trial begins, cannabis stores in these cities will be left with only six weeks to sell out all the self-cultivated cannabis they might have. At which point they will be obligated to buy from the growers in the government program.

A lot of shop owners wish that they were allowed more freedom to choose. Many people believe there should be a voluntary opt-in rather than an obligatory obligation.

The option they suggest, however, was not given to them by the government of Holland. Due to that fact, a lot of cannabis stores are afraid that they will lose customers to the existing black market.

RELATED: Which European Country Will Legalize Weed Next?

Growing pains

The government of Holland started a national trial program to manage the whole supply chain of marijuana for recreational purposes in late 2019. Ever since then, a legal tender has been made to select the cultivators allowed to grow such marijuana.

The trial program is designed to last for four years. Multiple delays have hampered the process, including NIMBY complaints from towns that protested such cultivation taking place in their districts and even a slap suit filed by a substantial Canadian grower.

While experimenting, researchers will supervise the entire procedure. Depending on the results of the trial, the government will decide how the policy can be effectively implemented in the long term.

As it stands presently, Dutch cannabis stores are growing their own cannabis, and because of this, the whole process exists in a grey area of the law. This will not come to a halt as soon as national trials start. Cannabis stores in the bigger cities will continue to grow their cannabis.

This trial is also taking place in the context of mounting pressure on the existing cannabis stores, which typically involves warnings from the government authorities to prohibit tourists from being able to make purchases or visit such establishments.

Will other European cities follow?

A great deal of attention is given to how the Dutch trial will move forward outside of the Netherlands. This is especially true in Germany, which is now battling to find a way to enable its recreational system to work. Although Germany may not allow establishments such as coffee shops to operate, at least at first, they would be more inclined to set up a similar controlled cultivation system if they did not order that the leading three medical growers be the primary providers of the same.

Nevertheless, it is quite beyond doubt that Europe is at the peak of finally agreeing with the fact that cannabis is here to stay.

Bottom line

The goal of the trial program is to determine with certainty whether or not it will be possible to manipulate a quality-controlled supply of cannabis to coffee shops and to examine the effects of a manipulated supply chain on safety, crime, public health, and public nuisance.