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The Netherlands Votes Against Extending Pilot to Amsterdam, Malta Cannabis Clubs Grow at Pace, & the INCB Weighs in on German Progress

The Netherlands cannabis pilot comes under pressure

This week, the Dutch House of Representatives voted against a proposal to place its long-awaited adult-use cannabis pilot on hold indefinitely.

Meanwhile, the lower house also voted against an amendment that would have seen Amsterdam-Oost, a district of the capital city, added as the 11th municipality to take part in the legalisation experiment.

Originally approved by the Senate in 2019, the trial was initially scheduled to begin in 2021 but saw repeated delays before eventually launching officially in December 2023.

The trial is now running in two municipalities, Breda and Tilburg. Citizens are able to purchase cannabis for recreational purposes legally from 19 coffee shops.

While the sale of cannabis has been effectively decriminalised in the Netherlands for years, the cultivation of cannabis remains tightly controlled, forcing coffee shops to turn to the illicit market for supply.

As part of the pilot study, these coffee shops will be supplied by licenced local cultivators for the first time. While 10 cultivators now have a permit to grow cannabis legally, Business of Cannabis understands only three are currently supplying the shops across Breda and Tilburg.

While the previous administration had planned for the experiment to be rolled out to an additional eight municipalities over the coming months, two amendments were voted on this week that sought to change this.

The PVV, now the largest party in parliament since the November election, put forward a motion to scrap it altogether, but this was decisively voted down by 110 against to just 40 in favour. Another motion to temporarily suspend the pilot was also voted down with a strong majority.

While the newly elected House of Representatives is far less behind the pilot trial, there is an acknowledgement that most municipalities want to get the trial moving as quickly as possible following years of delays.

However, another proposed amendment to adjust the existing law to include Amsterdam-Oost as the 11th municipality was voted down by a majority of just six votes (78 against, 72 for).


Malta’s cannabis clubs continue rapid growth 

A month after Malta’s first Cannabis Harm Reduction Association (CHRA) began accepting members, a further two associations have now launched.

Just as with the first CHRA, KDD Society, which launched on January 30, 2024, the two additional clubs have quickly reached their maximum 250-member capacity.

During a press briefing this week, Reforms Parliamentary Secretary Rebecca Buttigieg said that a total of 750 people have now joined CHRA’s in Malta, all of whom had previous experience with cannabis.

While three CHRA’s are now up and running, seven have now been granted licences by the Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis (ARUC), with the other four undergoing the final stages of product testing before they can begin distributing cannabis.

According to ARUC’s website, these include KDD Society, Ta’ Zelli, Sprawt, Northern Lights, Nege, Pollen Theory, and South Flowers, meaning Malta could soon have 1750 citizens legally able to purchase adult-use cannabis from CHRA’s.

ARUC’s CEO, Leonid McKay, told the press conference: “The ARUC has so far reached its aim of shifting users from the black market to regulated associations.

“From the feedback we received so far, the quality of the drug was better than expected, and the price is on par with that of the black market.”

He added that due to ‘a lot of misinformation and many questions’, his organisation would now begin focusing on educational campaigns, one of which began this week.


International Narcotics Control Board criticises German progress

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) published its annual report this week, using it to criticise Germany’s cannabis decriminalisation programme.

The organisation, which describes itself as a ‘quasi-judicial body’, is responsible for monitoring member states’ governments compliance with international drug control conventions.

Its report highlighted issues with Germany’s cannabis liberalisation efforts, which were recently approved by the Bundestag, stating they did not ‘appear to be consistent with the drug control conventions’.

The German Federal Ministry of Health argued that its efforts were in alignment with international law and had so far been created in close coordination with the body.

It’s worth noting that the INCB has consistently come out in opposition to adult-use cannabis liberalisation efforts, but has failed to impose any actual sanctions on countries so far.

Uruguay, the first country to follow this path, cited the protection of human rights to enable its perceived breach of the 1961 Convention – and it has subsequently been threatened with sanctions by the INCB.

The INCB also threatened Canada with punitive measures when it legalised adult-use cannabis, but so far no action has been taken.

International drug policy veterans will not be surprised by this intervention, and many have long criticised the organisation for its lack of transparency. Some have also suggested that the body is overstepping its remit, arguing that, as these developments relate to non-medical cannabis, the INCB has little authority or indeed teeth to make any real impact on policy.



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