Column

Title: Cannabis sales by delivery services and internet retailers

Written by: André Beckers

Recently an employee of a delivery service of cannabis received a nice present from the criminal division of the Court in The Hague. The man was on trial because in the period of November the 1st 2017 until December 10th 2017 he allegedly took part in a criminal organisation in Zoetermeer. He worked as a delivery man in wage labour for a delivery service for cannabis.
The company didn’t operate in secret. The owner had contacted the council in Zoetermeer. He had announced that he wanted to start a cannabis delivery service. He asked the Mayor to provide his company with a tolerance status. He also requested several exemptions and permits with the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. The police was also informed by the entrepreneur. There, he allegedly proclaimed that he was in possession of the exemptions. That wasn’t the case. Nether the less the company presented itself in a professional manner to the outside world. The company portrayed itself a legal company. The company was registered with the Chambers of Commerce. There were advertisements for the cannabis delivery service. To be able to buy cannabis from the comfort of your own home, the company disposed of a professional appearing website. Flyers were made and distributed in different suburbs of Zoetermeer. Multiple newspaper articles and Facebook articles were written about the delivery services. It appeared that the company was legal.
The court treated the delivery man for the company mildly. He was acquitted for taking part in a criminal organisation. For professional transportation of cannabis he was dismissed of charges. According to the court the man had failed. Yet he wasn’t aware of the illegalness of his behaviour. In his case there was an absence of all blame. That is the reason why he wasn’t punished. The court ruled that the Dutch coffeeshop policy isn’t insightful. In my opinion the policy is insightful, but due to technical developments it is outdated. In the Dutch Government Gazette (Staatscourant) from December 24th 2012, no. 26938, the coffeeshop policy is described. A coffeeshop is an alcohol-free catering establishment, where the trade in and use of cannabis is permitted. It offers the Mayor the possibility to steer the company by using a permit. He can make demands to the owner to abide. The Mayor is not required to tolerate coffeeshops. The majority of the Dutch councils don’t tolerate. In the Dutch Government Gazette everyone can read that the policy of toleration is strictly for coffeeshops that are tolerated by the council. It is explicitly stated that the trade of cannabis by pubs, shops, take-away services, courier- or taxi companies, a mobile number, mail-order companies or private retail is not permitted. When drafting the policy internet sales weren’t considered.
On the website wetten.nl you can simply browse up to date laws. In article 6 of the Opium Law (Opiumwet) you can read that the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport can exempt. The conditions to do so are described in article 8 of the Opium Law. The exemption is used for scientific or analytic-chemical research. Pharmacies and pharmacy- accommodating doctors and veterinarians are considered eligible for exemption. It shouldn’t be a surprise that cannabis delivery services or internet retailers are not mentioned. Nor are coffeeshops by the way. The conclusion is that the Opium Law and the policy of toleration don’t offer any room for delivery services or internet retailers. To control the growth of illegal selling of cannabis the government could experiment by offering tolerated coffeeshops the opportunity of providing home delivery. In the US brilliant apps to do so have been developed. That way customers who aren’t mobile or who would rather stay home can purchase cannabis legally. Are the rules for delivery not being followed by the company, and then the coffeeshop will be closed down. That way the Mayor will remain in control of his authorities.
Translated by Joanna McKernan. Joanna works as a Lawyer for the law firm Beckers & Bergmans in Sittard. She is a native English speaker. Joanna has a lot of experience in cannabis related civil cases.

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