6 May 2022

Cannabis products on the Dutch market

Category: Cannabis law


Businesses selling or importing products containing substances (THC of CBD) of cannabis should be aware of the Dutch narcotics law, the Opium Act (Opiumwet) and derived/implementing legislation, and the European Novel Food Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2015/2283), as implemented in the Dutch Novel Food and Genetically Modified Foods (Commodities Act) Decree (Warenwetbesluit nieuwe voedingsmiddelen en genetisch gemodificeerde levensmiddelen). Note that the novel food regulation is only applicable to food stuffs. Several CBD products are already on sale throughout the Netherlands.

Relevant law for products containing cannabis

The main legislation relevant for cannabis in the Dutch narcotics law is the Opium Act. As far as relevant for the purpose of this memorandum, it prohibits in articles 2 and 3 the ‘(sub a) importing into the Netherlands, (sub b) preparing, processing, selling, delivering, supplying or transporting, (sub c) having present and (sub d) producing of substances/plants mentioned in either one of two lists present in the Opium Act (list 1 being classified as ‘hard drugs’ and list 2 being classified as ‘soft drugs’). The Opium Act-lists are implementations of the Schedules I and II (list 1) and III and IV (list 2) of the Convention on Psychotropic Substances (Verdrag inzake psychotrope stoffen) and of the Schedules I-IV of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (Enkelvoudig Verdrag inzake verdovende middelen).

Hemp oil’ (the concentrate of plants of the species Cannabis, obtained through extraction of hemp or hashish, possibly mixed with oil) is mentioned on list 1. The prohibition of article 2 is therefore relevant.

Hemp’ (every part of plants of the species Cannabis, from which the rosin is not substracted, excluding the seeds) is mentioned on list 2. The prohibition of article 3 is therefore relevant.

What’s forbidden under Dutch narcotics law?

Importing, preparing, processing, selling, delivering, supplying, transporting, having present and producing (products containing) of hemp oil, hemp and/or THC into or in the Netherlands is therefore forbidden. All of the products mentioned above are considered ‘narcotics’ under Dutch law. Note that synthetic CBD doesn’t necessarily classify as such, since this product ordinarily doesn’t contain any THC, nor is it derived from the cannabis plant. But there are exemptions and quantity of cannabis substances are material as well. These exemptions can only be granted in certain situations, like medical of scientific appliance. There’s more to say about his but that would be too much detail for this blog. Als check out this update on cannabis and CBD.

Cannabis and European and Dutch novel food regulation

When sold as food or food supplements (thus, when the product does not classify as a narcotic), in addition to EU regulations on general food stuffs, the European Novel Food Regulation (Regulation (E) 2015/2283) applies. This regulation lays down rules for the placing on the market of novel foods. The purpose is to ensure the effective functioning of the internal market while providing a high level of protection of human health and consumers’ interests. The Novel Food Catalogue lists all recognized novel foods. Recently, ‘cannabidiol’ has been added to the novel food catalogue, as founded by article 6, paragraph 1, of the Novel Food Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2015/2283).

Article 4 of the Novel Food Regulation states that it is up to food business operators to verify whether or not the food which they intend to place on the market falls within the scope of the Novel Food Regulation. They must approach the Member State in which they first intend to place the (novel) food on the market in order to do so, which Member State may consult with the European Commission.

How to get your cannabis product on the Dutch market?

It very much depends on the nature and substances in your product to establish what the legal status for a product is in the Netherlands. We are in contact with the Office of Medicinal Cannabis and the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority over the issue of permissibility of cannabis products and they have indicated mentioned that they were going to formalize a policy, but this has not happened yet.

Feel free to contact one of our cannabis lawyers on this topic.