Legislation On Medicinal Cannabis In The Netherlands

20 november 2019

The Netherlands is one of the first countries to have set up a government programme for medicinal cannabis. It was former Health Minister Els Borst (1994-2002) who was the first to see that patients regularly used cannabis from the coffee shop for medicinal purposes.

Coffee shops often have little or no control over the quality, origin and composition of the purchased cannabis. In order to be able to provide patients with reliable cannabis and to involve doctors and pharmacists, the Minister made it possible to start a national programme.

This eventually led to the establishment of the Office of Medicinal Cannabis (BMC) in 2001. The BMC is part of the Ministry of Health (VWS) and responsible for the production and supply of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes. There are many strict rules to ensure that no surprises appear during production. All these conditions can be found in the Single Convention.

The BMC provides the following products and services:

  • Medicinal cannabis in the Netherlands to pharmacies, dispensing physicians and veterinarians
  • Medicinal cannabis to institutions and agencies in other countries, if the authorities of those countries so agree.
  • (Medicinal) Cannabis for the purpose of scientific research
  • Imports and exports of cannabis and cannabis resin
  • Opium exemptions for cannabis and cannabis resin

Since September 2003, medicinal cannabis of the right quality has been available in all pharmacies. A patient must have obtained a prescription from his or her doctor to collect it from the pharmacy. In addition to supplying cannabis to Dutch patients via the pharmacy, BMC also makes cannabis available for scientific studies, the development of medicines by pharmaceutical companies and export to other countries.

The company that will produce medicinal cannabis in 2019 is Bedrocan BV, based in Veendam. The entire process of cultivation, harvesting, processing and packaging of the plant is carried out according to more pharmaceutical quality rules, under the supervision of the BMC.

The final quality is checked by independent and specialised laboratories. This results in safe and reliable cannabis. At the beginning of this year, the government announced the addition of a second company for the production of medicinal cannabis. This is because there has been a considerable increase in the use of medicinal cannabis in recent years and because there is increasing demand from patients because of the positive results. There are currently 5 different varieties of cannabis available on prescription. The product is delivered to patients in containers of 5 grams. Since 2015 it is also possible to order cannabis on prescription in the form of oil. This is currently supplied by a small number of pharmacies.

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