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Given that in recent weeks he is discussing a lot because of the abrogative referendum in favor of cultivation for personal use and the adoption of the basic text for legalization

we will explore the ways in which precursor countries such as the Netherlands, Spain and the more recent Canada and the United States have organized their legal cannabis market as a whole.

Index of sections


  • The cannabis market in Holland
  • The overseas cannabis market
  • The Cannabis Market in Spain
  • In Italy

 The cannabis market in Holland

In the forerunner nation of the green wave of legalization, the division between drugs is divided into two categories according to the Opiumwet (opium law):

  • I category, substances, also called hard drugs (Harddrugs), which involve unacceptable risks and damage to health such as heroin, cocaine and amphetamines;
    II category, substances that cause less damage to health: among these also cannabis products (derived from Indian hemp, marijuana and hashish).

The distinction of the categories therefore also allows to sanction penalties with different severity according to the crimes committed. In the Netherlands, the sale of soft drugs can always be punished, but the nation wisely prefers to give priority to the fight against hard drugs. For the uninitiated, the legal limit for the sale of cannabis in the famous coffee shops is a maximum of 5 grams per person. The tolerance of 5g derives from the fact that the sale of small quantities of soft drugs (cannabis), therefore belonging to category II, is considered a much less physical and social damage than the use of hard drugs. Although there is a policy of tolerance  towards the maximum quantity possible by law, the country does not promote the use of drugs. Indeed, it is discouraged thanks to the information support that takes place in schools and in campaigns aimed at raising awareness of health risks. Regular research in the Netherlands focuses on the prevalence of drug use; the latest research has shown that in the United States, people who regularly use cannabis are more than twice as many as in the Netherlands; the difference is even more marked when hard drugs are considered. What not everyone knows is that in the Netherlands, contrary to what is often believed abroad, it is forbidden:

  • production (tolerance of up to 5 plants for medical use);
    detention (max 5 Gr for personal use and closed in the package);
    sale and purchase outside the coffee shops.

But on the other hand, it is customary not to proceed against the purchase of 5 grams of cannabis in coffee shops, against the possession of a small amount of drugs for personal consumption and against the cultivation of a limited number of hemp plants, always for personal use. In the Netherlands, in fact, trade, sale, production and possession are punishable for all types of drugs. According to the "concept of opportunity" present in the criminal law of the Netherlands, when a behavior violates the law and therefore we witness a crime, and it is not such as to undermine public order, the Public Prosecutor can decide not to prosecute it. . The directives on which crimes to punish and which not to punish in the field of drugs are decided in a document of the Ministry itself. The categories drawn up by the Opiumwet which aims to distinguish between soft and hard drugs want to prevent users of the milder ones from coming into contact with harder drugs and the criminal circuit in which they are distributed.

The number of drug-related deaths in the Netherlands is the lowest in Europe. The government manages to support about 90% of drug addicts with detoxification programs. The savings in time and money associated with the controlled tolerance of soft drugs made it possible to effectively focus on combating the harder ones. According to statistics, the country's tolerance policy has not led to greater drug use: in the Netherlands 9.7% of young boys consume soft drugs once a month, not comparable to the level in Italy (28.9%) and Germany (20.9%) and lower than those of the United Kingdom (15.8%) and Spain (16.4%). These percentages are repeated with regard to the statistics on hard drugs: in the Netherlands there are 2.5 drug addicts for every thousand inhabitants, in Belgium 3.0, in France about 3.9, in Spain 4.9, in Italy 6.4.

The Cannabis Market in Spain.

The cannabis social clubs of the Spanish model were introduced by ENCOD, “European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies”. The Encod is made up of a network of European non-governmental organizations of citizens dealing with the impact of international drug policies. The purpose of the network is to defend the right of citizens to consume certain substances safely and to raise awareness about cultivation for personal use. The platform includes up to 150 members, including organizations, companies and citizens who want to end the drug war. It defends consumer rights and places actions and policies on cannabis, legalization and the benefit that society could have.

Cannabis Social Clubs offer maximum transparency since the entire production process of cannabis flowers, therefore from sowing to harvesting, supervision and sale of the finished product. Clubs generally have charter members and are funded by dues and membership dues. The registered members actively participate in the development of the club since the production of CSCs, by law, must be tied to the quantity required by its members; therefore, more members will mean more cannabis produced (click here). This, on the other hand, guarantees that the club is never in reserve of raw material as it must meet the requests for the quantity intended for members. They are born as non-profit associations and in the case of financial benefits, the earnings should be used only to promote the objectives and improve the structure and service offered by the association itself.

The club promotes organic and organic cultivation techniques and to safeguard the health of its members avoid the use of pesticides and potentially harmful chemicals. The site aims to educate on the conscious use of cannabis, as opposed to what is normally happening on the black market. However, Cannabis Social Clubs are legally registered associations with their own internal organization essential for the management which constitutes the Annual General Assembly where each member of the club has the opportunity to express their opinion and vote. It, like all associations, is required to provide reports to the Annual General Assembly on their activities and expenses. This means that clubs keep a record of their activities which can also be seen by their members, other clubs or the authorities.

In Europe, before the advent of the Spanish system, the primacy of cannabis was held by the Netherlands, especially Amsterdam. The cannabis law in the Iberian Peninsula has produced a real revolution on a cultural level, and not only in the country but throughout Europe. At this moment Barcelona is the city that has been able to make the most of the road to legalization. In the peninsula the rules are precise, yes, you can eat it but not in the streets of the cities, if caught even with a small amount there will be seizure and a sanction. Of course nothing that could be serious, but it is good to keep this in mind and above all to avoid issues of this type with the authorities. We believe that for the moment the Dutch legalization system, despite the shortcomings, is the system that guarantees the greatest security to its owners. The cannabis law is newer than the Dutch one and needs more experience to be normalized.

The overseas cannabis market

On October 17, 2018, Canada declared cannabis legality  for recreational use only for adults. While the federal government retained control over production, it delegated responsibility for regulating retail sales in their respective territories to individual provinces and territories. The goal of the legal legislation is to protect young people, promote public health and reduce crime in the drug markets. Federal regulations establish two classes of production license:

  • “cultivation” license, which authorizes holders to grow cannabis;
    “processing” license, which authorizes holders to produce cannabis-based products such as edibles.

All cultivation and processing license holders are subject to federal controls in relation to the safety of the premises and aimed at reducing the risk of theft of cannabis for the purpose of selling it on the non-legal market. In Canadian territory the limit allowed for personal possession in public is 30 g of dried cannabis and the limitations of the Canadian system stipulate that food products are limited to 10 mg of THC per package purchased. This indication is not standard because the nation has allowed the provinces to introduce further restrictions. Quebec has decided to ban certain types of edibles that may appeal to children, such as candy, chocolate, and gummy candies, from being sold on the market. According to research conducted in Canada following the first six months of legalization, the federal government raised $ 55 million in both excise and property taxes, while provincial governments raised $ 132 million. Retail stores are subject to the requirements based on the areas in which they are located and local municipalities may decide to ban them altogether or to ban them near sensitive locations. Under federal laws, adults are allowed to have up to four cannabis plants per residence. Federal regulation also allows the provinces to individually determine the access age thresholds and the minimum age for the purchase and possession of cannabis is set locally at the minimum age for alcohol, or 21 years.

In the United States, on the other hand, there are numerous states that have legislated in favor of the use of therapeutic and recreational cannabis. Cannabis is used for the treatment of numerous serious diseases, but also for the less serious ones such as nausea and to improve the appetite of people with HIV or chronic diseases (read here). Following legalization, the country has seen a decrease in drug-related crimes. A study by four Italian economists tried to compare the effect of legalization between the State of Washington and Oregon, two neighboring and very similar states. The former passed the recreational cannabis law in 2012, while Oregon legalization took place two years later. Between 2012 and 2014, sexual violence offenses in Washington State decreased by 15-30% compared to the same period in Oregon, property offenses by 10-20% and theft by 13-22%. Although the authors are cautious, it would seem that the first possible cause is the decrease in the consumption of alcohol and other types of drugs, in the face of the increase in cannabis use, which sedative effect would have led to a sharp reduction in the aforementioned crimes. Furthermore, it has been shown that there is no effect on the number of fatal car accidents in the states that first legalized cannabis. In conclusion, of these two researches, if nothing else, it can be formulated that legalization has not led to any spike in crime.

In Italy

While waiting for the referendum which should take place on one of the Sundays between April 22 and June 22, it is hoped to be able to face and overcome one of the most common speeches in debates on legalization, or the possibility of removing induced to organized crime. The issue is by no means taken for granted, so much so as to split the Italian anti-mafia front in two. On the one hand, Roberto Saviano, who has always been at the forefront of the fight against the mafia, who pushes for the legalization of cannabis and who recently sided in favor of the referendum on legalization. On the other, Nicola Gratteri, the magistrate who is challenging the 'Ndrangheta in Calabria, who instead thinks that this would only scratch the Mafia's profits. These, however, are largely derived from hard drugs. According to the 2019 European Drug Report, the number of seizures of cannabis and its derivatives is 72% of the total, but the value of seizures in Europe for cannabis is worth between 5.8 and 8.2 billion euros. year, against a range between 7.7 and 11.5 billion euros estimated only for cocaine.






Redattore Sociale

Orizzonti Politici


Science Direct

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