Buying Cannabis in The Netherlands in 2023

Who doesn’t love cannabis?

Everyone loves it, right?

That’s why today I’ll share some ninja techniques to buy cannabis in The Netherlands in 2023.

I’ll answer some common questions related to buying cannabis in the Netherlands. We’ve also tried to find the answers to those questions. Have a look, and you might find the answer you’re looking for!

The Netherlands, and particularly Amsterdam, has been the most favorite place for cannabis lovers for decades. In spite of the efforts of the Dutch government to get rid of the status of being a stoner’s heaven in the 2010s, people all over the globe still gather to the coffee shops in Amsterdam when they want to enjoy weed in an apparently legal way.

If you visit the country, make sure you take a tour of one of the coffee shops in Amsterdam to try out cannabis in the Netherlands.

Let’s begin with the history of cannabis in the Netherlands!

What was the Role of Cannabis in The History of The Netherlands?

cannabis and the Netherlands
toeback-drincker painting by Adriaen Brouwer

People widely used to smoke weed in the Netherlands in the 17th century. You can see the proof of this in a painting by artist Adriaen Brouwer, which indicates a man with an ale tankard in his one hand and a pipe in the other.

In those days, people knew those who smoked cannabis as ‘toeback-drinckers.’ They regularly mixed their weed with tobacco, then smoked it in a Gouda stone pipe.

Cannabis usage remained widespread until the action was taken upon the ‘toeback-drinckers.’ Pope Urbanus VII banned cannabis. He also threatened the users with excommunication if the authority finds them defied the law.

The officials even warned corporal punishment in the manner of cutting off the offender’s noses or executing them.

Despite this warning, there were many who believed in the significant value of cannabis. Some scholars even declared that it was good for the body and mind.

Most travelers assume that weed is legal in the Netherlands. But is that really the case? Read on to find out!

How is The Cannabis Policy in The Netherlands?

Contrary to common understanding, cannabis is ILLEGAL in the Netherlands. The government has decriminalized cannabis use. The authorities allow the possession of a small quantity of marijuana, but weed is not entirely legal in the Netherlands.

The government introduced an experiential program that intends to examine the effects of cannabis legalization, standardization, and taxation.

Let’s dig deeper!

The Dutch Cannabis Legalisation Program

This program began with ten Dutch municipalities, but they excluded Amsterdam. The plan was limited to small- to medium-sized cities of 38,000 to 200,000 inhabitants for the time being.

The authorities picked these cities because they are small enough to make implementation easy but big sufficient to support coffee shops.

Each of the municipalities involved in the program will only permit the sale of cannabis products that marijuana breeders have sourced in the Netherlands.

The coffee shops in the participating municipalities will only be permitted to sell marijuana, which the authorities have monitored and tested. It also had to have an accurate label of its tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) ratio.

By forming a legal cannabis sales system, the success of the pilot program should serve as a template for other cities. But the process of getting legal producers and approving them seems to be a long one. You might not see legal marijuana on the racks of associating coffee shops until 2021.

It will apparently take some years until the governments will apply the template to big cities such as Amsterdam. Until then, coffee shop administrators will have to move to do as best they can.

What is a ‘Weed Pass‘? 

The government launched the so-called Weed Pass to prevent non-Dutch citizens from haunting coffee shops. It was trialed in some of the southern regions of the country – including the city of Maastricht. But most cities and towns have reportedly rejected the plan.

The weed pass is still in effect today. Only Dutch citizens may utilize coffee shops. The only exception to this is Amsterdam, on a condition that coffee shops must be at least 250m faraway from a school.

Due to this rule, approximately 175 coffee shops survive in Amsterdam, half the amount of coffee shops in the ’90s!

Is Medical Marijuana Legal in The Netherlands?

As you might know, the Netherlands is one of the first nations in the world to legalize marijuana for therapeutic objectives.

cannabis and the NetherlandsOpinions began changing in 1993 when the Netherlands became the first EU nation to introduce a forerunner to its contemporary medicinal cannabis program.

In 1999, when Els Borst, who was the Health Minister at that time, supported its use. The government commenced developing something more concrete.

After two years, the country started producing and prescribing marijuana to patients. The Office of Medicinal Cannabis was also established at this time.

The government gave two companies licenses in 2003, allowing them to produce cannabis products for medical purposes.

One of those products, Bedrocan, is among the most extensively used cannabis medicine in the world. The Office of Medical Cannabis strictly controls and observes all the production.

The government is now interested in adding a further government license, allowing other companies to grow cannabis for medical and experimental objectives.

CBD and Hemp

The government doesn’t allow CBD production in the Netherlands, but it is legal for private usage. The legal status of CBD originates from old legislation, which was more concerned with the production of hash oil than CBD.

The Netherland government changed the Opium Act 1999, legalizing hemp for industrial production. It indicated that it was legal to cultivate hemp plants with a THC ratio of under 0.2%, but not for producing CBD, as it is an extraction of the plant.

However, there is a loophole in the act. If the hemp is cultivated in the Netherlands, then processed into CBD outside, it can be lawfully sold in the Netherlands again.

Contradictory to public belief, it must contain a THC ratio of less than 0.05%, not 0.2%.

Can You Possess and Consume Cannabis in The Netherlands?

The Netherlands government categorizes drugs into two categories:

  • List 1: ‘Hard’ drugs are regarded as harmful to health, such as heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, and GHB.
  • List 2: ‘Soft’ drugs that profess less risk, like tranquilizers and cannabis.

All drug laws are basically formed on the base of the 1928 Opium Act, which states that possession of any drugs, either list 1 or 2, is illegal.

However, the Opium Act Directive also declares that the local authorities tolerate cannabis usage at certain outlets known as coffee shops.

cannabis and the NetherlandsThis is called gedoogbeleid,’ which means a toleration policy. So, in opposition to popular belief, marijuana is decriminalized rather than legalized. In March 2017, there were 567 coffee shops in the Netherlands.

Some times, the law does come into action for the use of weed. For instance, the police can prosecute you if they find your use of cannabis harmful to young people, such as smoking it near a school or on public transport. 

The local authorities decide about the prosecution, not the government. Technically, the officers can send you to jail for possessing even small amounts of weed.

The threshold for what composes a ‘small amount’ is five grams. If you possess over this volume, you could be subject to a penalty (€75) if you’re a first-time offender. You might end up in jail if the police find you with a more considerable amount.

If the police find you with under five grams of weed, the authority will probably seize it, and you won’t be sued or punished.

Can You Grow Cannabis in The Netherlands?

Cannabis cultivation is formally illegal, though raising a few plants at the house for private use is decriminalized. If the authorities find you with five cannabis plants or less, the police will apparently seize them without prosecuting you.

The “private use” aspect here is critical. It should be clear that the producer does not mean to sell weed. If officials detect at least two signs that it might be a commercial planting service, they might execute. These signs can be artificial lightning, air-conditioning, timers, etc.

Being caught with a higher quantity of plants is taken more severely. You might get communal service or several years of confinement.

The authorities might increase the sentence for those working as part of a criminal group, if the seedlings were a fire-hazard, or if the plantation was booby-trapped.

There have been some unusual court cases concerning cannabis plantation. An interesting event is that of two producers whom the police arrested in 2014. The court ordered that even if they had broken the law by cultivating 2,500 cannabis plants, they would not be punished.

To defend the judgment, the judge pointed out that the two breeders grew the cannabis plants safely and responsibly, following the Dutch policy of tolerance. This was a memorial case, implying a transformation in approach towards cannabis cultivation in the nation.

What are Grow Shops?

There have been grow shops in the Netherlands since the 1980s. These stores sell almost anything needed to grow cannabis under artificial lighting.

Most of the clients buy such items legally to grow cannabis in their own homes illegally.

The popularity of grow shops soon increased. In the 1990s, similar enterprises developed in Germany and Switzerland. There were grow shops worldwide by the millennium, in places like the USA and South America.

The unwritten rule has always meant that the stores can stay in the market, as long as they don’t sell cannabis. Until lately, the government allowed the Dutch grow shops to sell seeds, but this has since been declared illegal.

In 2015, the Dutch grow shop’s future was put under threat due to the introduction of the Growshop Act.

The new law declared that, while the shops could continue to sell the device, they could just operate as a kind of ‘florist.’ 

If the shop-owner knows that one of his customers is illegally cultivating cannabis, they could be seen as liable for ‘aiding and abetting.’ 

The Dutch police have been working on the law and regularly sell seized tools at auctions. Growshop-owners across the country presently trust that the government might reverse the restrictive law. 

Is Selling Cannabis Allowed in The Netherlands? 

The Dutch authorities see soft drugs, such as cannabis and hashish, as less damaging than hard drugs, such as cocaine, ecstasy, or heroin, and they treat them as such.

To separate the soft drug trade from the hard one, the authorities tolerate the sale of soft drugs in coffee shops. By adopting this stance, the authorities want to prevent the general public from contacting criminal drug dealers who might sell hard drugs. 

But despite the government’s efforts, criminal drug dealers control the Dutch cannabis exchange. And, sometimes, the laws themselves make this situation possible. 

In the Netherlands, selling cannabis in coffeeshops is legal and often profitable, but growing and distributing it are not. Sometimes, coffee shop owners or managers need to depend on the illegal cannabis exchange to stock their shelves with fresh products and keep their customers happy.

Where to Buy High-quality Cannabis Seeds in The Netherlands? 

One reason that the Dutch introduced the coffee shop system in the 1970s was to differentiate the purchase of soft drugs and hard drugs. More than 100 local municipalities in the Netherlands have at least one coffee shop. 

cannabis and the NetherlandsSome places, such as Amsterdam, have numerous coffee shops. In the coffee shop, you will have the option to purchase cannabis safely from the menu options.

We recommend that you do not get weed from a street dealer. Nor is it required when you have a coffee shop. If you need to understand what cannabis varieties are available in the Dutch coffeeshops, you can check out the coffee shop menus online here.

In Amsterdam and numerous other cities, the coffee shops are available to tourists and locals. However, in 2012, a Dutch Judge decided that local city councils can decide whether to allow or restrict tourists from using coffeeshops.

Just a couple of areas in the south of The Netherlands have cast a ballot to prohibit visitors from using the coffeeshops. But, if you are a resident in The Netherlands, you can purchase cannabis even if you are not a local.

However, ordering cannabis seeds online is always an option. There are few reliable seed banks that will offer you a great variety with many other benefits. We recommend you visit MSNL, Sensi Seeds, and Dutch Passion seed banks and try them out!

Let’s get into the bottom of what coffee shops are! 

What are Coffee Shops in the Netherlands? 

cannabis and the NetherlandsThe Netherlands has long been Europe’s cultural hub of cannabis. Amsterdam has invited cannabis lovers for decades. With a big selection of coffee shops and a tempting exhibit of varieties, numerous cannabis tourists love visiting The Netherlands. 

Coffeeshops are basically cafes in the Netherlands that can sell cannabis to their clients. Even if the sale is tolerated, it isn’t, strictly saying, legal.

They can sell just the small quantities of cannabis (five grams per customer), and close to 500 grams of stock must be stored at any time. 

All sorts of people visit coffee shops in the Netherlands. Although many people worldwide regard it as a ‘young person’s’ interest, a lot of older people enjoy smoking cannabis in coffee shops.

Coffee Shop Buying Options 

cannabis and the NetherlandsThe better-supplied coffee shops will usually have a range of varieties on offer. You can visit with the staff in the coffee shop. Knowledge levels can shift quite a bit, but the best coffeeshops have a staff that knows how the strain works and why that specific assortment is on the menu.

Some of the best coffeeshop team will have personal experience of all the varieties and offer an inside and out talk. 

Before you visit, it would help if you do some online research to find out which coffee shops best suit you. Some coffee shops have better suppliers than others.

These days most coffee shops will try to offer an Indica/Sativa hybrid and good quality Indica and Sativa varieties. Most coffee shops offer 5-6 types, sometimes more. 

Usually, you can anticipate a range of quality and a range of costs. Generally, the best quality cannabis sells for the highest price. But saying this doesn’t imply that every expensive strain you purchase is of great quality. 

To access a coffee shop in the Netherlands, you should be 18+ and show whenever for your passport or ID card. Tourists or foreigners are welcome in most cities, aside from some cities around the border with Belgium or Germany. 

Are the Coffee Shops Illegal? 

Though coffee shops are technically illegal, they are granted permits to exchange by the authorities.


You’re not the one and only one: Dutch drug law is a hazy old business. 

However, the rules are inevitable about one issue: coffeeshops can not purchase cannabis. Therefore, various coffee shop owners utilize outsider buyers, who source the cannabis, no questions asked, and bring it into the shop.

When the weed is through the door, providing it amounts to close to 500g, the authorities tolerate it. 

If you visit The Netherlands, you will find the coffeeshops to be a safe and easy way to buy cannabis. Most of the time, you will notice a great selection of good quality products on offer.

If you are thinking of touring the Netherlands, this coffee shop guide might be a useful place to begin!

Problems of the So-called ‘indirect access‘ 

In the Netherlands, the government allows the sale of a small quantity of cannabis, but the purchase of cannabis by coffeeshops is illegal. So, coffee shops can sell through the ‘front door,’ but they can’t purchase the supply through the ‘indirect access.’

This has made a legal obstacle and has several downsides: It encourages organized crime and controls the product’s quality assurance.

Regulated production punctures the intentions of illegal cannabis growers. It also makes it possible to verify the cannabis quality and will generate additional expense income. Uruguay and in the American state of Colorado (more or less) use the same model.

Cannabis Events 

The Netherlands hosts a couple of significant cannabis events throughout the year. It includes the Amsterdam Cannabis Expo, the Cannabis Culture Awards, and Green Tech.

Let’s have a look at each!

Amsterdam Cannabis Expo 

cannabis and the NetherlandsAmsterdam Cannabis Expo is a golden opportunity to be part of the cannabis community. Every year more than 10,000 industry professionals join to do business, discuss the latest trends, find industry friends, and experience developments personally.

Thousands of industry experts, including representatives from all cannabis industry players from more than 100 nations worldwide, meet at Amsterdam Cannabis Expo to see the latest innovations, discuss best practices and tackle the industry’s biggest challenges. 

The Amsterdam Cannabis Expo will be held on three days from 24 to 26 November 2020 in Amsterdam.

What are The Cannabis Culture Awards? 

The Hash Marihuana and Hemp Museum Amsterdam confer the Cannabis Culture Awards to those who have taken place at the frontline of the struggle to acknowledge cannabis in all of its forms. 

Moreover, they also recognize the contribution of those who have worked honorably to make sure that this unique plant has a future where ultimately people use it and appreciate its history. 

Green Tech Amsterdam 

Amsterdam Cannabis Expo is a golden opportunity to be part of the cannabis community. Every year more than 10,000 industry professionals join to do business, discuss the latest trends, find industry friends, and experience developments personally.GreenTech is the global meeting for all professionals engaged in horticulture technology. GreenTech focuses on the beginning phases of the horticulture chain and production issues pertinent to growers.

Even during challenging times, GreenTech offers you the opportunity to experience horticulture solutions first-hand! 

This October, you can join three days worth of inspiring knowledge sessions at GreenTech Live Online!

From a live studio, leaders and marketing experts will share their knowledge on cutting edge topics. You’ll get an inside and outlook at the horticulture technologies of things to come. Registration is presently open for free access.

Warning about COVID-19 

Because of the corona pandemic (COVID-19), information about exchange fairs and events might be out-of-date. You can get more details from the organizer. 

How Bright is The Future of Cannabis in The Netherlands? 

As of now, the Netherlands adopts a tolerant approach to cannabis use, though many admit that the laws are confusing. It appears that future governments may address the differences and make a clearer set of laws for citizens to hold fast to.

Take a tour to The Best Coffee shops of Amsterdam in the following video!

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