Source: Office of Medicinal Cannabis; C. Sandvos
Last update: 9 February 2009
Cannabis is allowed for medicinal use in the Netherlands. On September 1st 2003 the Office of Medicinal Cannabis started delivering cannabis with a medicinal grade to patients through pharmacies. Behind this process are different laws, nationally and internationally.
Internationally there is the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961). Article 28 of this Convention says that if a country allows the growth of Cannabis it has to do so under supervision of a government agency.
In the Netherlands that agency is the Office of Medicinal Cannabis (OMC), which is a part of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports.
On international level the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) oversees all action of our agency.
On national level we have the Dutch Opium Act, which has been altered in March 2003. In the Netherlands growing cannabis is forbidden unless the company has a permit. In the Netherlands one grower has a permit to grow medicinal cannabis for pharmacies. It is legal for the OMC to deliver medicinal cannabis to pharmacies and for pharmacies to supply the medicinal cannabis to patients (on doctors prescription only). In addition standardized cannabis is available for scientific research and product development.
Recently the highest Dutch court decided to not punish a patient, due to a situation of emergency, which grew his own cannabis plants. This judgment was exceptional and only for this individual patient, so it doesn't mean that patients are free to grow themselves. For more information see attached pdf-file.
The OMC is the official wholesaler in medicinal cannabis. Therefore they set up a whole production and distribution chain for the three varieties of cannabis: there is a contracted grower and a packaging and distribution company. To ensure that patients receive cannabis which is standardized and that is safe and qualitative good the OMC has slightly fitted in with the European Guideline for Good Agricultural Practice for Growth of cannabis for medicinal purposes. The grower that is contracted grows his cannabis according to this guideline.
All batches have been within the range of content levels the OMC has set. The OMC also provides a quality system to ensure that the cannabis the patients receive is qualitative good and safe. For this purpose the OMC has contracted a GMP/GLP - certificated laboratory. A monograph is available which complies to international standards.
The medicinal cannabis is among other things tested on contents, content stability, microbiology, and at random pesticides and heavy metals. Every batch medicinal cannabis comes with his own release certificate with all relevant information. These are available through the website.
The estimation of patients which use medicinal cannabis through pharmacies is about 500.
However the total amount of patients which use cannabis for medical reasons is expected to be much higher. A lot of patients obtain cannabis through the coffeeshop / illegal circuit or by raising.