Upcoming Weed Experiment Leaves Coffeeshops on Edge

By Yoana Petrova and Lily Plass

February 23, 2022. Coffeeshops participating in an upcoming weed experiment are concerned about how the trial will affect the quality of their business.

The weed experiment is an initiative by the government to transition to weed sourced from the Netherlands. While it has been legal to sell weed in small quantities since 1972, growing weed remains illegal which leaves coffeeshop owners only able to buy their weed from abroad, sometimes from questionable sources. “It’s obviously not good that it stays the way it is because everything happens through the backdoor,” Yana* an employee at a Groningen coffeeshop said.

In an attempt to tackle organized crime surrounding the cannabis trade, the government came up with the idea of the weed experiment. Starting in the second half of 2022, over a period of four years, ten producers in the Netherlands will have the opportunity to grow cannabis plants and sell them to ten municipalities – Arnhem, Almere, Breda, Groningen, Heerlen, Hellevoetsluis, Maastricht, Nijmegen, Tilburg and Zaanstad.

Coffeeshops in these municipalities do not have a choice whether they want to participate in the experiment for the duration of the trial run. All cannabis stores will be required to source their weed from the supply provided by the government or close their doors. After a rigorous selection process, the government chose ten producers that will supply the weed. The government hopes to reduce weed THC levels from a current range of 1.8 to 45.8 percent to a range of 2.2 to 25 percent. High levels of THC can lead to side effects such as nausea, anxiety and paranoia.

9to5Groningen spoke with employees in two different coffeeshops in Groningen about what their expectations are for the experiment.

“We would prefer it stays the way it is,” Sam* an employee at another Groningen coffeeshop said. He is concerned that the quality of weed will go down, leading to loyal customers turning elsewhere. “If they cannot get it from a legal shop, they will turn to illegal sources,” Sam said.

Although Yana is more optimistic about the experiment, she said her uneasiness lies with the fact that all coffeeshops will sell the same weed to customers, “That means the customers won’t come to our store for the weed we are selling.” Yana said this removes the competitive factor between the coffeeshops and leads to a question of how coffeeshops will be able to distinguish themselves from one another. Yana said they are banking on the reputation they have built with customers over the years to keep business flowing.

Another concern she raised was that the coffeeshops participating in the experiment will not receive any hash from the government. According to Yana, “All customers that buy hash, will buy from the streets and that will increase criminality.”

Sam also raised questions about what will happen after the experiment. “Are they just going to drop everything?” Sam said the coffeeshop he works for spent 30 years building connections with their business partners. He is worried that their connections will disappear if they are not allowed to purchase any weed from their current suppliers over a period of four years.

“If the government wouldn’t provide growers but allow us to do it legally that would be the best solution,” Yana said.

*Names of employees have been changed to protect their anonymity.

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