Where |The Netherlands

Capital |Amsterdam

Inhabitants |17000000

Legal Status |illegal

Medical Program |yes

by Martijn on 09/02/2015 | Legal & Politics

The legal status of cannabis in the Netherlands – an overview

Law Recently, the once liberal cannabis legislation in The Netherlands has changed a great deal. As a tourist, can you purchase weed in coffeeshops, or not? How many plants may you cultivate? What is the current status of cannabis in the Netherlands?

The Netherlands – Amsterdam in particular – has long been viewed as cannabis nirvana. In recent years, the once liberal cannabis legislation has changed a great deal. As such, other countries and American states are rapidly catching up with the Netherlands and the country is losing its progressive image on this issue. What is the current situation in the Netherlands? Can you smoke cannabis on the streets in Holland?

The Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum in Amsterdam
The Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum in Amsterdam

The origin of the Dutch tolerance policy

The Netherlands has operated under a so-called “policy of tolerance” since 1976 when the new Opium Act was implemented, which differentiated between soft and hard drugs. One of the main reasons for this was the serious heroin problem the country was suffering from. At the time, Amsterdam in particular was saturated with cheap heroin and that caused huge problems. Use of hash was also becoming more popular, but this hardly caused problems.

In 1972, the “Touwtrekken om hennep” (Struggle about hemp) report concluded that responsible cannabis use was feasible (as proven in practice) and comparable with alcohol and tobacco consumption. In the interests of public health and to free up police resources for the fight against heroin, the cabinet wanted to exclude cannabis and hash from the realms of criminal law as quickly as possible. The objective was complete decriminalisation, but that would be a long process due to international conventions. Meanwhile, cannabis use was decriminalised, making the Netherlands the first country in the world to do so!

The sale of cannabis

The Public Prosecution Service will prosecute coffeeshops if they do not observe specific regulations
The Public Prosecution Service will prosecute coffeeshops if they do not observe specific regulations

Despite the policy of tolerance, the sale of soft drugs remains an offence, but the Public Prosecution Service does not prosecute coffeeshops if they observe specific regulations, such as:

  1. A maximum of 5 grams may be sold per person;
  2. Stocks may not exceed 500 grams;
  3. Coffeeshops may not cause a nuisance;
  4. No hard drugs may be sold;
  5. No soft drugs may be sold to minors;
  6. Coffeeshops may not advertise soft drugs;
  7. Coffeeshops may not be situated within a 250-metre radius of a school.

Local authorities have the freedom to amend these regulations at their discretion and coffeeshops that breach the regulations are closed temporarily. Repeated breaches may result in permanent closure.

Possession and use of cannabis

Possession and use of cannabis is a criminal offence, but is tolerated in certain circumstances. An individual may carry a maximum of 5 grams of cannabis or hash without risk of prosecution. If found by the police, it may be confiscated and if you refuse, you may be detained. Possession of in excess of 5 grams may be construed as being for commercial use and carries a fine of up to €3,500. Possession of in excess of 30 grams is a crime that carries a maximum two-year prison sentence and/or a fine of  up to €16,750.

Use of cannabis in public is not permitted. However, tracing the possession and use of small amounts is not a priority and is not actively pursued by the police. Particularly in central Amsterdam, the chance of someone who is using cannabis but not causing a nuisance coming into contact with the police is remote.

The cultivation of cannabis

5 plants for personal use is tolerated in the Netherlands
5 plants for personal use is tolerated in the Netherlands

The cultivation of cannabis is an offence, but 5 plants for personal use is tolerated. However, there is limit of one technical apparatus, for example, a hydroponics grow tent, grow light, or extractor system as two or more of those would suggest professional cultivation. Unfortunately, indoor growing generally requires two or more apparatuses.

Anyone found with 5 plants, but who is not a professional grower, will have the items confiscated, but will not be prosecuted. Five plants in a professional setting are questionable, while anything over 5 plants irrevocably leads to prosecution.

Medicinal cannabis in the Netherlands

The prescription of medicinal cannabis is permitted in the Netherlands, but is still in its infancy. Bedrocan is the only business commissioned by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport to produce cannabis legally to supply pharmacies. This means that while doctors may prescribe cannabis, they rarely do so. Many doctors are not yet sufficiently informed about the therapeutic effect of cannabis any many health insurers do not (yet) cover medicinal cannabis.

Hemp and cannabis seeds

Cultivating and processing industrial hemp with a psychoactive component of less than 0.3% is legal in the Netherlands, but the government must be informed. Dutch hemp production was introduced by Ben Dronkers in 1994 He recognised the potential of the plant and, driven by the ambition to produce an eco-friendly, economically viable, traditional crop in his home country, he established Hempflax with 140 hectares under hemp production. The business currently has around 450 hectares under production in the Netherlands, 550 in Germany and 700 in Romania.

In the Netherlands, the sale of cannabis seeds for growing plants that produce psychoactive substances is permitted. The seeds are considered no different from any other seed, but cultivation is limited to 5 seeds.


In 2013, well-known Dutch opinion pollster Maurice de Hond published statistics on the views of the Dutch people about cannabis decriminalisation. According to his research, at least 65% of the Dutch think the government should follow the example of Uruguay, which in 2014 adopted a law to regulate the use, cultivation, sale and processing of cannabis. Nevertheless, since 2010, the government has been heavily engaged in criminalising cannabis, while various countries and American states are actually adopting Dutch policy.

Useful to know

Corrosion of the policy of tolerance

There is a great deal of criticism of the failing policy, including from those of the judiciary
There is a great deal of criticism of the failing policy, including from those of the judiciary

The policy of tolerance was intended as a first step towards complete regulation. However, further steps were never taken, and the consequences have taken their toll. The biggest problem is that it is tolerated for coffeeshops to sell via the front door, while it is illegal for them to purchase via the so-called back door. Professional production is not permitted either. Thus, the system has created an operational business practise that is partly dependent on an illegal production and purchasing process that obliges coffeeshop owners to do business with criminals.

Regulation of production would steal the thunder of commercial producers and create a controllable production process. Instead, the government cracks down on commercial growers, while production is not decreasing. The regulations pertaining to coffeeshops are also being tightened, as a result of which no more than 600 of the 1500 former coffeeshops remain.

There is a great deal of criticism of the failing policy. Police resources are swallowed up combating cannabis, while other – in the eyes of many – more important issues are not dealt with. The judiciary too is becoming overburdened and all of this is costing a great deal of taxpayers’ money. However, the government has no intention of stopping and recently implemented the so-called Growshop Act and attempted to prohibit cannabis with a THC-content of over 15%.

Southern provinces

In order to address supposed anti-social behaviour by tourists from other EU countries buying cannabis in the Netherlands, the wietpas (later the I-criterion) was implemented in the southern provinces of the Netherlands in 2012. That which many had anticipated became reality:  tourists keep coming, but now buy from criminal, street level dealers who, in addition to soft drugs, also sell hard drugs and cause far more of a nuisance.

For now, the sales ban applies to non-residents in the provinces of Limburg, North Brabant and Zeeland only. Despite the failing measure, the government still intends to implement it nationally. Many coffeeshops breach the regulation and many local authorities are strongly opposed to it.

Cannabis and the political parties of the Netherlands

The Dutch Minister of Justice, Ivo Opstelten
The Dutch Minister of Justice, Ivo Opstelten

The VVD (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy) has been in power since 2010. The party claims to be liberal, but headed by the Minister of Safety and Justice, Ivo Opstelten, the VVD is criminalising cannabis relentlessly, without being open to alternatives. Fortunately, there are a number of parties that support an alternative policy, for example, the PvdA (Labour Party), D66, Groen Links, the SP (Dutch Socialist Party), the PvdD (Party for the Animals), and the 50+ party.

In January 2014, the Joint Regulation was organised, in which over 50 mayors from various political parties and who had lost confidence in the national cannabis strategy, signed a manifesto to pressure the government to allowing experimentation with regulated cannabis production. Finally, more judges are increasingly refusing to defend the ill-conceived policy.

We now await the moment the democratically elected government bows to the facts, the will of the people and the judiciary.

If you would like to read more about developments in Dutch politics, see the suggestions below this article.

Comment Section

Post a comment

Ruslan dulko

Let people grow but put regulations on it. All tax from cannabis will cover all it's costs and decrease pressure from police.



yeah fuck police. i no goin


ian Powell

Wasting your time meddling with anything people do to change the way they feel.Cut out the moralising -Let things find their own level.



California (USA) has a pretty good system in place at the moment Nov 2016.

For personal use (simple summary, for 21 yrs of age and above only):

* Personal Cultivation: 6 plants total. No limit on technical apparatus used. Allowed to grow indoors or outdoors, but must be in locked area outdoors (child safety), plants not positively identifiable (discreet) from public view. Outdoor grow. (sample: a simple greenhouse outdoors using fence with mesh and simple locked gate to keep children out is considered enclosed and locked (discreet but everyone knows).

* You may possess all or your harvest that your have grown (accumulative amount = may equal kilos possibly depending on harvests).

* Public possession less than 28.5 grams is legal, a violation could receive a reasonable priced fine per violation. (May purchase amounts up to 28.5 grams per visit from a retail vendor).

* Public smoking mostly prohibited, same as cigarettes. Enforcement is liberal at best.



Wish to be there


Christian Roman

Hello, this msg is to make contact

we have just developed this new product and we want to let everybody know that this choice is available now.

can you please tell us if possible to promote it with you ??

i am actually in the Netherlands

please let me know if possible.

Thank you very much for your attention

Best regards


Christian Roman


Scarlet Palmer

Hi Christian,

I have passed your comment on to the relevant department.

With best wishes,



Jason Clark

The situation here in the UK is worse. The vast majority of the population all agree that cannabis should be legalised but our govt absolutely refuses to listen and still insist that cannabis is evil and will be the end of civilization as we know it despite all of the evidence contrary to that.

The UK is rapidly becoming the most backward nation on the planet regarding a lot of things, I pray holland doesn't become the same.



here i am am a kenyan who want to transform lives through marijuana in east and central africa if you can fit gig deal i will gon na strike it in high rank. contact me to negotiate


Jerry Ross

OK, I am doing a one month residency in Renkum, Netherlands and have journeyed from Eugene, Oregon where pot is not only legal but we have over sixty legal pot dispensaries in our small city with no problems and making all kinds of good tax money for the government. But where can i buy pot here? I guess I will try the pharmacy but doubt they will sell it to me. I have a marijuana medical providers card from the State of Oregon but doubt that makes any difference.Whenever I come to Europe it is like entering the dark ages with criminalization and fear mongering about pot. Did you know that one of your best European painters, Picasso, regularly smoked hash for inspiration? Seems like alcohol and caffeine are still the drugs of choice for most Europeans and these giant mega interests want to keep it that way.



Hi @ all
How is the legal situation of growing EU-confirmed CBD strains in the Netherlands today (2018)?


Scarlet Palmer

Hi Sven,

Thanks for your question :) I'm not sure what you mean by EU-confirmed CBD strains. I think you mean the ones bred to contain high levels of CBD and low levels of THC? If so, it really still depends on the THC level as to whether or not they are classed as industrial hemp. According to our sister company HempFlax, "Hemp is permitted to be cultivated in the EU, but it must be approved by the authorities and fall consistently below 0.2% of ∆9-THC in
any given part of the plant". So it is still necessary to have a license to grow hemp. If the THC is more than 0.2%, the plants are classed as cannabis (as in the psychoactive types) and the usual rules for personal use apply, to wit, no indoor cultivation and a maximum of five plants outdoors.

Given the rapidly changing status of CBD in Europe, it is likely that we will be posting an update on this soon. In the meantime, I hope you continue to enjoy the blog!

With best wishes,



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Where |The Netherlands

Capital |Amsterdam

Inhabitants |17000000

Legal Status |illegal

Medical Program |yes

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