Marijuana and The Netherlands

The Netherlands has, for the longest time, been known to be a highly progressive country that takes a liberal stance on recreational drug or substance use. If you have never been to this country or have not read a lot about them and what their laws actually say about cannabis use, you may be shocked to find out that marijuana is actually mostly illegal there.

Existing laws are hazy, and people continue to lobby for reforms. However, it does not change the fact that the use, possession, selling, and cultivation of this herb are still largely prohibited by Dutch laws.

Whether you live in or outside The Netherlands, you have to know the pertinent laws and regulations that apply to your favorite hobby or medication. This short article goes over just some of the most important things you need to know about how cannabis stands in The Netherlands in 2017.

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First Things First

Before we go into an in-depth discussion about the Dutch laws on cannabis use, let us answer the most important question first: Is marijuana use legal in The Netherlands?

The answer, mostly, is no. Sure, you can find a lot of residents and foreigners alike smoking joints openly, especially in these so-called coffee shops. However, that may be because they are either consuming equal to or less than the set threshold by authorities or, simply, the cops are turning a blind eye.

Coffee Shops

There are plenty of coffee shops in The Netherlands, a huge proportion of which is concentrated in Amsterdam. These coffee shops sell marijuana over the counter and have emerged key players in the weed industry. About 25% to 30% of visitors in Amsterdam visit these shops to smoke pot. This activity, although illegal, is widely tolerated.

These coffee shops, meanwhile, can store up to 500 g of marijuana in the property at any given time without getting into any legal trouble. Take note that this is the threshold for storing cannabis. Coffee shops are not permitted to buy weed directly from suppliers.

Shop owners go around this policy by working with third-party buyers who buy cannabis and bring the junk into the shops. Provided that these weigh 500 g or less, this business model works for both shop owner and buyer.

As you may have guessed, coffee shops themselves are inherently illegal. However, they are granted permits to operate by the government. The bottom line is: You are free to visit these coffee shops. Ask the staff what you can and cannot do, and follow that to avoid problems.

If you are in college or university, though, do not expect to find coffee shops so easily. The Netherlands does not allow these establishments within 250 m of schools. In the past, tens of coffee shops have been closed because of this policy.

Weed Pass

The so-called “weed pass” is a policy that prevents non-Dutch residents from smoking weed in coffee shops. However, this is now largely ignored as well, especially in Amsterdam. Take note, though, that it is still enforced in some shops (mostly in provinces, such as Maastricht). You may be asked for proof that you live in the country.

Possession, Growing and Buying of Cannabis

The cops are bound to leave you alone if you are seen in possession of 5 g of cannabis or less. If caught with more, you risk being penalized up to 3,500 euros. If you go over 30 g, you can be sentenced to prison for two years and/or pay a fine of nearly 17,000 euros.

Meanwhile, you are free to buy marijuana and its seeds online from over the counter. Avoid buying from street dealers are these individuals are used to ripping their clients off. The sale of marijuana seeds is also allowed, but you can only sell up to five seeds in total per transaction to avoid legal trouble.

Again, Dutch laws are a little ambiguous (not to mention, often ignored) about the cultivation of marijuana. In general, the cops can let you off with a warning if seen growing five or fewer weed plants using only one technical mechanism.

However, if you are a professional grower who intends to cultivate marijuana for industrial purposes, then you can legally do so, provided that the THC content of your plants is below 0.3%. Also, you are required to let the authorities know about your operation so as to avoid legal sanctions.

Medical Marijuana in The Netherlands

The possession, use, selling, buying, and growing of marijuana and/or its seeds are legal for medical purposes. All you need is a valid prescription. This is where you may have a problem as doctors are still not fully open to prescribing cannabis as a treatment for their patients.

After all, the research on the health and therapeutic benefits of cannabis is still considered to be in its infancy. To doctors, the existing study and experimental results are still inconclusive and insufficient to compel them to promote the use of medical marijuana.

Reforms Pending

At present, The Netherlands is deliberating a new legislation that allows for the cultivation of marijuana, but only for professional purposes. With this positive development, smokers, coffee shop owners, and sellers should have one less thing on their minds.

This move makes businesses easier to run. For example, coffee shops no longer have to go through middlemen. As a result, business is faster, products are cheaper, and fewer people are involved in operations, which in turn improves safety and security.

This also means that users have more varieties to choose from at reduced prices and can get their fix much faster and more easily. The quality of weed is also expected to considerably improve due to the competition promoted by the possible legalization.


The Netherlands is indeed very lax when it comes to such substances as marijuana. However, this is no reason to assume that you can openly smoke whenever and wherever in the country. We advise that you check local laws, and stay within the safety thresholds.