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In Break With Past Policy, Dutch Mayor Allows Cannabis Patients to Grow at Home

September 13, 2016

The mayor of Tilburg, the sixth-largest city in the Netherlands, has indicated that authorities will allow residents who rely on medicinal cannabis to grow up to five plants for personal use without fear of prosecution. The move is a clean break with existing policy, under which medical growers face evictions and seizure of their plants.

Mayor Peter Noordanus announced the news in a letter to local patient organization PGMCG (Patients Group Medicinal Cannabis Users). Marian Hutten, chairwoman of the group, called the official permission an “excellent, cool step of the mayor.”

“If this mayor allows it,” she told local TV station Omroep Brabant, “it should be allowed in other cities as well.”

Not surprisingly, there are a few restrictions. Medicinal users must be adults, have medical certification and a fire-safe home, and grow no more than five plants with a maximum height of three meters. Still, it’s a big victory for the Dutch medicinal cannabis community. Until very recently, growers with any number of plants risked being raided by police. While individuals wouldn’t face criminal prosecution if there were five or fewer plants, the plants and equipment would be confiscated and destroyed. And if the homegrower lived in social housing, like many Dutch people do, any number of plants automatically led to eviction.

Those consequences will no longer loom over cannabis patients in Tilburg. “It is outrageous how they deal with people,” Hutten said, “A raid has a huge impact on the people concerned. They are treated like criminals.”

Just last week, multiple sclerosis patient Jean-Paul ‘t Gilde made national headlines after the mayor of Middelburg decided to evict the man from his home. Police found 364 grams of dried cannabis in his residence along with three tiny cannabis plants in pots and about 50 small bags. That was enough to brand him a drug dealer. (While he’s slated for eviction, the order has since been postponed.)

The changes in Tilburg would help protect patients in similar situations, but Dutch cannabis policy still is in urgent need of an update. Political party D66 has proposed a law that would regulate the so-called backdoor paradox of Dutch coffeeshops, where sales of small amounts are tolerated but cultivation and wholesale transactions remain illegal. The party hopes the change will be adopted under a new government following elections in March 2017.

But the proposed legislation has no mention of homegrowing; it’s strictly limited to coffeeshops. In a country with the cannabis culture that Holland has, the limitation seems out of place. The mayor of Tilburg just demonstrated how easy it is to allow adult citizens to grow cannabis for personal use. Even Italy, a traditionally conservative and very Catholic country, is considering legalization — including the right to grow five plants at home. Couldn’t the Dutch national government do the same?

Derrick Bergman's Bio Image
Derrick Bergman

Derrick Bergman is a Dutch journalist, photographer, and activist who has been covering cannabis culture since 1994. He is a founder and the current chairman of the VOC, the union for the abolition of cannabis prohibition. Since 2010, he's served as the coordinator of Cannabis Liberation Day, the biggest cannabis and hemp event in the Netherlands. He is a father to three sons and has been growing his own cannabis for more than two decades.

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