Lawmakers in the lower house have narrowly passed a law backing the legal growing and sale of cannabis, under government control. Until now, less than five grams of cannabis could be sold legally by coffee shops.

The legislation, brought forward by member of parliament (MP) Vera Bergkamp of the progressive D66 party, was approved after a 77 for and 72 against vote in the lower house on Tuesday.

Bergkamp argued the cultivation and sale of cannabis would be better controlled if it was regulated by the government and the draft law would help fight criminality.

D66 said the legislation would also enable quality checks on cannabis crops and allow authorities to levy taxies on what has become a multi-million euro industry.

Cannabis-based medicine is produced by the Italian Army at Stabilimento Chimico Farmaceutico Militare in Florence.

The production of cannabis is just one of the activities of the military’s 164-year-old chemical and pharmaceutical institute. The body prides itself on the fact that its cannabis was registered as a pharmaceutical product by Italy’s medicines agency in September 2015. The end product is very different from most of the cannabis consumed around the world.

The component that gets recreational users high – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – is less useful to doctors than another active ingredient, the anti-inflammatory cannabidiol (CBD). An estimated 2,000 -3,000 Italians currently use medical cannabis for instance to relieve multiple sclerosis pain and spasticity or combat nausea after chemotherapy.

“No, I have never tried it, and I don’t have any intention of trying it either,” says Antonio Medica, the colonel in charge of the Italian military’s cannabis laboratory in Florence. He laughs that one of his colleagues joked the other day, saying they spent 40 years trying to stop the troops smoking it in the barracks and “now we are producing it ourselves’.”

Production in a sterile, sealed environment is very important. “That is the only way you can ensure a consistent product and one free from the toxic materials, particularly heavy metals like mercury, that the plants can easily absorb when grown in fields,” Medica explains.

The German parliament In January 2017 voted unanimously in a landmark bill to legalize the use of medical marijuana, for instance ot help cancer patients feeling nauseaous after chemotherapy. The drug is also said to help fight a lack of appetite and weight loss in tumor patients, and can alleviate symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

Above, a pharmacist prepares a prescription of marijuana in the laboratories. The first batches of made-in-Italy pot have just arrived in pharmacies.

Author: Nadine Berghausen

More growers likely

The bill overturns a ban that prevents the public from growing more than five plants for personal use, although the Netherlands has allowed the sale of small amounts of cannabis since 1976 in its famous coffee shops.

However, it still has to be approved in the upper house, known as the First Chamber, where there is no certainty that a majority will be reached.

Commentators said it was unlikely the draft bill would reach the upper house before the country’s general election on March 15. As a result, the draft law could become a bargaining chip in discussions to form a new coalition following the election.

Under the proposals, owners of coffee shops would be able to buy cannabis from certified growers within a “closed system.” This was welcomed by a number of people involved in the trade.

“It is good news for the coffee shop industry because it will finally – if it passes the First Chamber – put an end to a lot of stuff we can’t organize in a normal and transparent way,” said Joachim Helms, chairman of the Coffee Shop Union.

‘Addiction will rise’

But opponents have said larger-scale cannabis cultivation breaks international rules and would lead to more addiction among young people.

Dutch coffee shops remain popular with locals and foreigners alike. In major hubs such as Amsterdam they are a major draw for some of the millions of tourists who visit the country every year.

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mm/jm(AFP, AP)

A court in The Hague has rejected a plea by 19 Dutch coffee shop owners: As of May first it will be more difficult for foreigners to buy cannabis in The Netherlands. (27.04.2012)

The closure of a coffee shop that sold cannabis to foreign visitors has been deemed unlawful by the top Dutch court. However, the court’s decision hinted there would be legal grounds for a change to the law in future. (29.06.2011)

Prostitution and cannabis-vending in Amsterdam are to be curbed in an effort to clean up the city’s historic center, authorities announced over the weekend. (08.12.2008)


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