14 February 2016

Dutch Act on Narcotics

Category: Cannabis law

The Dutch Opium Act contains provisions about psychoactive substances or narcotics. You are not allowed to bring narcotics (goods falling under the Opium act – only available in English) across the Dutch border. Narcotics falling under the Opium act are, for example: hashish, cannabis, heroin, cocaine and XTC. It is allowed, as an exception, if you have a licence for it. The Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport grants these licences for the Netherlands. A Dutch lawyer can assist with the application or license in the Netherlands. The Dutch Act on drugs contains provisions about offences relating to psychoactive substances, such as producing prohibited drugs or substances in the Netherlands, as well as exemption which can be applied for with the Ministry of Health. The Opium Act includes also provisions against drug trafficking. In the Penal Code measures can be taken regarding the confiscation of illegal assets and the prevention and prosecution of money laundering activities.

Substances or Chemicals used for Narcotics

Certain chemicals may be used for producing narcotics. These chemicals are also called drug precursors. If you bring drug precursors into the European Union, trade, store or transport them, you should have a licence. Customs checks for the presence of these licences. If a licence is missing, Dutch Customs may intercept the shipment. You may ask a specialized lawyer on chemicals to advise On the Chemical Substances (prevention act) or in Dutch Wet Voorkoming Misbruik Chemicalien (WVMC). The Abuse of Chemical Substances Act enables the monitoring of the trade in precursors, implementing European Regulations 273/2004, 111/2005 and 1277/2005. Other Dutch laws applicable to health and welfare also have relevance for drug use or drug users.

Distinctions in drug categories

The Opium Act makes a distinction between category I drugs (hard drugs) and category II drugs (soft drugs like canabis). The Act states that it is an offence to:

  • take drugs of either category across the borders of the territory of the Netherlands;
  • prepare, treat, process, sell, supply, provide or transport drugs of either category;
  • possess drugs of either category; or
  • manufacture drugs of either category.
  • The Opium Act provides a schdule of category I and category II drugs. You may apply for an exemption from this prohibition. This exemption is called an opiumontheffing in Dutch.

Listed substances under Netherlands Law

Illegal substances are annexed to the Opium Act and divided in two schedules: substances presenting unacceptable risks and other substances:

Schedule I, ‘drugs presenting unacceptable risks’ , is subdivided in a, b, c:

Ia: including among others opiates, cocaine, cannabis oil, CBD;

Ib: Codeine;

Ic: amphetamines and LSD.

Schedule II is subdivided in a and b:

IIa: includes tranquillizers and barbiturates;

IIb: includes cannabis (without the qualification of unacceptability).

The division in schedules has impact in the prosecution of illegal offences in the Netherlands: penalties for offences with regard to Schedule II are considerably lower than those for Schedules I.

Dutch License for drug sale and production

A license or exemption for the prodcution or sale of a specific substance or narcotic can be applied for with the Ministry of Health. Specifically for cannabis Office of Medical Cannabis (OMC) is the government agency responsible for implementing the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. It is also responsible for overseeing the production of cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes. The OMC has a monopoly on supplying medicinal cannabis to pharmacies, and on its import and export. The OMC also processes applications for exemptions from the Opium Act relating to cannabis and cannabis resin. The OMC guards the quality of the medicinal cannabis by a constant supervision of the grower and the distributor. Also read: license and registration of medicine, API and medical cannabis.

Decentralized cannabis policy Netherlands

Part of the national drug policy is decentralised to the local level, specifically for the cannabis sold the “coffeeshops” in the Netherlands, These “coffeeshops” have a license from the local Council. Dealing with drug related public nuisance, including the possibility of administratively close down premises where illegal drugs are sold, is part of the mayor’s competence. The drug policy at the local level, which must comply with national guidelines, is co-ordinated in consultation between the mayor, the chief public prosecutor and the chief of police, in so-called tripartite consultations. Our cannabis lawyers can tell you more about cannabis activities in the Netherlands as well as CBD products that have become highly popular.