Dutch cabinet plans to classify ‘strong’ cannabis as Class A drug

The Dutch cabinet has approved the proposal to classify cannabis with a THC percentage of more than 15% as a hard drug. Coffee shops are only allowed to sell cannabis with a THC percentage below 15%. Shops that don’t comply risk fines or closure.

Acceptance of this proposition means another blow to the coffeeshops in the country that was once known for its liberal drug laws. Earlier this year the court decided that coffee shops in border towns are no longer allowed to sell cannabis to foreign visitors. It is also likely that the government will introduce the so called ‘cannabis-pass’, a card that only allows Dutch residents who own this pass to purchase cannabis.

The push to clamp down on soft drugs has come mainly from the Christian Democrats (CDA), the junior partner in the minority government and one of the larger parties in a fragmented political landscape.

"There's clearly a shift in the moral debate. It's all about the culture of control," said Dirk Korf, professor of criminology at the University of Amsterdam.

The Christian Democrats also want tougher regulations on the so-called cannabis plantations.

In addition to illegally supplying the coffee shops, "much of the illegally cultivated cannabis in the Netherlands is exported abroad. There is an extensive network illegally created in the grip of organized crime," the party said in its statement.

Opponents argue that the cultivation needs to be regulated, so coffee shops can legally purchase their merchandise, and with such a system quality checks can be implemented.

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Strong marijuana to be treated as Class A drug: cabinet plans