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Dutch councils aim high in dope growing experiment

Local Dutch councils are queueing up to join a government experiment to grow marijuana which could see its production legally licenced in the Netherlands, the NOS broadcaster said Tuesday.

The new Dutch coalition government has said it will introduce a bill possibly within six months on “uniform experiments with tolerated cultivation of cannabis plants for recreational use”.

The aim is to find ways to overcome a grey area in Dutch law under which the sale of small amounts of cannabis — less than five grammes per person, or about one-fifth of an ounce — was decriminalised in 1976.

About 600 so-called coffee shops operate legally around the country selling the drug, but the wholesale growing and sale of marijuana remains banned, forcing the shop owners to buy from illicit growers or criminals to meet demand.

The aim of the experiment, to be carried out in six to 10 local municipalities, is to determine “whether and how controlled cannabis can be legally supplied to coffee shops and what the effects would be,” the government said in its coalition agreement published last month.

NOS said that 25 municipalities, including Breda and Rotterdam, had already put their names forward to take part in the test.

Breda Mayor Paul Depla told NOS he was pleased so many local authorities were willing to join in.

“I would like as many models to be experimented with as possible so we can choose which is the best one for regulating the production of weed,” he said.

He was among those, along with the mayors of several major cities such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht, who signed a “Joint Declaration” calling for local authorities to be allowed to regulate cannabis growing.

The move was narrowly defeated in a May 2015 parliamentary vote, with 75 MPs voting against and 70 in favour.

According to the new government sworn in in late October, the results of the experiment will be “independently evaluated” and it will then “consider what action to take”.

In July, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalise pot from production to sale, authorising two companies to grow cannabis for sale to pharmacies, under military protection and with no public access.

The system operated by Montevideo is the first time a state has put itself in charge of the production and distribution of marijuana, and is designed to undercut lucrative and illegal drugs trafficking.

© Agence France-Presse

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