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Is marijuana and CBD legal in the Netherlands?

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The Netherlands is associated by many with a hemp paradise. Tourists often go there to party, visiting coffee shops where they have the opportunity to consume a plant that is illegal in many countries, that is marijuana. But is marijuana in the Netherlands as widely tolerated as we think? What are the legal standards for CBD and THC in the Netherlands?

Is CBD legal in the Netherlands?

CBD products are made from true hemp and have been legalized in a number of countries. However, they are legal only if they meet the requirements set out in the relevant regulations. In the Netherlands, the situation is that CBD is considered a so-called soft drug, according to the Opium Law, and although the law itself does not mention the substance directly, officially hemp products are considered narcotics.

So how does the law in the Netherlands treat CBD?

Currently in the Netherlands, you can buy CBD products with a THC content of no more than 0.05% without a prescription. This is far less than the amount allowed for hemp production, and this causes problems for CBD oil producers, who must abide by legal rules. On the other hand, the case is slightly different for consumers of similar products, as they can rather easily find hemp oil and other CBD products with higher THC content (up to 0.2%) that are available on the European market.

Is marijuana legal in the Netherlands?

The Netherlands is considered by many Europeans to be a place where marijuana can be smoked freely. And what does it look like in legal terms?

Recreational use of marijuana in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is famous for the fact that recreational use of cannabis in that country is openly tolerated. As assured by the Dutch government, the cultivation of up to five cannabis plants is not prosecuted by law enforcement. Retail sale of marijuana in the Netherlands in special cafes is also tolerated if it meets the relevant criteria.

Use of marijuana in the Netherlands for medical purposes

The use of medical marijuana in the Netherlands has been permitted since 2003. Of course, all activities related to the use of this drug are strictly regulated and carefully controlled. This means that it is necessary to obtain permits for the cultivation, import and sale of medical marijuana, and prescriptions for the drug are issued in limited quantities.

Medical marijuana is subject to the Dutch Medicines Act, which means that a marketing authorization is required to market the product. Yet this requirement does not apply to medicinal marijuana grown by Bedrocan, as this producer’s cannabis can be marketed without any permits. Medical marijuana is available to patients upon presentation of a prescription, and its quality is much more carefully controlled than the pot that is traded in coffee shops.

Marijuana in the Netherlands for foreigners

Marijuana in the Netherlands appears to be readily available to foreigners. Especially in larger cities like Amsterdam, where you come across coffee shops at every turn. Thus, the capital of the Netherlands seems to be a perfect destination for tourists wishing to try cannabis when visiting the Kingdom of the Netherlands. This is unfortunately a very harmful myth (like the one that in the Netherlands marijuana is completely legal and can be smoked or otherwise used virtually anywhere without any fear or legal consequences). Therefore, there have been proposals to ban the sale of marijuana to tourists in coffee shops. Dutch authorities were fed up with people who, while touring the country, landed in Amsterdam, for example, and committed many acts of vandalism under the influence of marijuana. 

What are the risks for a tourist who purchases marijuana in a coffee shop in the Netherlands? Some municipalities in the Netherlands wanted to ban the trade in marijuana, especially the sale of marijuana to foreigners. It could then only be purchased by citizens of the country upon presentation of a special membership card. And that’s exactly what happened in some municipalities! When visiting them, tourists have no chance to purchase marijuana unless they certify that they are Dutch citizens. If a tourist manages to obtain marijuana and is caught with it, they will be treated the same as a Dutch citizen caught with marijuana. You can carry up to a maximum of 5 grams, and you are not allowed to consume marijuana in public places. If the police catch you with marijuana, it can be seized and destroyed, and in the case of larger quantities, you mainly face fines, which we write about in another part of the article.

Coffeeshops in the Netherlands

Coffeeshops are establishments where it is legal to sell cannabis for personal use. They are quite widespread in the Netherlands, and most such places also serve food and beverages. However, they are not authorised to sell other drugs or alcohol.

Within the Netherlands, it is officially illegal to sell marijuana, but coffeeshops are not subject to penalties if they follow the rules below:

  • a ban on the sale of other drugs;
  • a ban on the sale to people under the age of 18;
  • no advertisements;
  • no disturbance of public order;
  • selling only up to five grams of cannabis per customer.

Although there is an official ban on direct advertising, discreet store signage is tolerated. Many coffeeshops display green-yellow-red Ethiopian flags or other Rastafarian symbols for recognition. 

In 2008, the Dutch government mandated that coffeeshops be located no less than 250 meters from schools. Some municipalities have also banned tourists from attending such places.

Punishment for possession of marijuana in the Netherlands

Although marijuana is illegal in the Netherlands, possession of up to 5 grams of the product for personal use is not punishable. And yet, in the event of a police inspection, even such an amount will be seized and destroyed. It is not tolerated for people under the age of 18 to possess or purchase any amount of marijuana. If caught with a quantity of up to 30 grams of the product, minors can get a fine of 16 to 30 hours of community service or a fine of 18 to 150 euros.

In the case of adults, possession of 5 to 30 grams of marijuana is punishable by a €75 fine. Possession of more than 30 grams can carry a prison term of up to two years or a fine of €16,750. Exporting marijuana outside the country is also banned. Exporting quantities of less than 500 grams can carry a penalty of up to four years in prison or a €67,000 fine. Exporting above 500 grams is punishable by six years’ imprisonment or a €78,000 fine.

Although the Netherlands is a fairly tolerant country when it comes to marijuana, this only applies to small amounts, possessed for personal use. The law in the Netherlands still prohibits the possession and sale of large quantities of the drug. The regulations concerning products containing CBD are also quite restrictive, and they can only be produced in the Netherlands if THC content does not exceed 0.05%.

See also

Hempking | Hemp, CBD and THC in Lithuania

Croatia and Hemp Law (CBD and THC)

Hemp market in Romania

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