Two years ago, Cannabis Culture magazine was the first international newsmagazine to tell its readers about the Dutch government’s “Office of Medical Cannabis,” located in The Hague.
The new agency’s goal was to conduct studies of medical marijuana and to help Dutch patients get it if it the studies found it was medically useful.
As of today, September 1st, the Dutch government and Dutch pharmacists will be providing State-approved, “sterilized” medical pot to qualified patients. The weed will cost about ten Euros per gram, and will be sold five grams at a time. This is equivalent to buying approximately a quarter ounce of weed for about $70 US dollars.
Dutch coffeeshop guru Nol Van Schaik, who owns three top-ranked coffeeshops in the beautiful heritage town of Haarlem (near Amsterdam), said that the government’s program acknowledges what he and other marijuana activists have been saying for years.
“Wernard Bruining, who founded the first Dutch coffeeshop 31 years ago, started a coffeeshop Mediweed program in 1996, to counter the high prices already charged by pharmacists,” Van Schaik said in an interview from Spain, where he is working with cannabis activists. “My coffeeshops joined the program in 1996, and we’ve been providing weed to patients at wholesale prices ever since.”
Van Schaik says that although the government’s weed program rightfully acknowledges marijuana’s medical benefits, the program is flawed.
“They charge too much for the weed,” he said. “They are likely to be offering low-potency weed, without much variety, in amounts that might not be useful for some patients. They are not doing what the patients wanted, which is to allow patients to buy weed from pharmacies and coffeeshops, and to have the purchase reimbursed as part of the Dutch health system’s prescription drug benefits.”
Even though Van Schaik is not completely satisfied about the pharmacy mediweed program, he is glad that the new right-wing Dutch government has not been able to implement its regressive marijuana policies.
In the last year, the conservative, fundamentalist Catholic CDA political party that has majority control of the Dutch government has been making rude noises about shutting down all Dutch coffeeshops, trying to justify its actions by using “indoor clean air” laws, zoning laws, and social pressure.
The CDA’s stance has emboldened local officials, such as those in Amsterdam, to attack coffeeshops and in some cases to close them down.
“Our three shops in Haarlem are all newly-remodeled and have been doing great business this summer,” Van Schaik said, “in part because myself and other coffeeshop owners negotiated the best local coffeeshop policies in Holland a few years ago. My ace business manager Marcel Dekker and I have been in contact with Haarlem officials, and they are going to leave us alone to run our shops as we always have, because they know our shops serve the community and are a model of how cannabis shops should be run. The shops in other parts of Holland, on the other hand, are fighting to survive, and I am hoping that the cannabis industry will unite and stand up for its rights.”
Van Schaik is living in Spain, helping the Spanish cannabis movement to grow and prosper.
He says Spanish cannabis laws and social attitudes are in some ways more progressive than those in Holland, that there are hundreds of cannabis growers, hashmakers, and that 30% of the population smokes herb.
“We’re planning to bring some new cannabis genetics here, as well as help the Spanish industry expand into new areas,” Van Schaik says. “Spain could well become the Jamaica of Europe. It has great beaches, friendly people, lots of weed, liberal laws, and is an incredible place for vacationers and people looking for a second home.”
The Dutch ganja guru, who spent ten years as Holland’s only activistic coffeeshop owner, says that he and Spanish weed people are thinking of opening a ganja resort, college and research center on the coast near Malaga.
“We’re looking for investors,” he said. “This country already has a big tourism industry, and it has plenty of sunshine so we can grow weed almost all year. If we can build a resort that will introduce people to Spanish cannabis culture, as well as all the beautiful people who populate the beach here, it will be very successful.”
Van Schaik wanted to continue talking to us about the European weed scene, but his daughters called him away.
“I’ve got 35 female marijuana plants that are asking me for their food and water,” he said, as he prepared to go out in the global warming sun and take care of the glistening, resin-laden outdoor crop he is growing in the hills near his home.
Van Schaik invited me over to photograph and sample the Spanish harvest; readers of Cannabis Culture will be seeing great photos and learning more about the Spanish weed scene in an upcoming issue of the magazine.
Until then, check out www.hempcity.net for the latest Euroweed news.