While the cannabis experiment is not getting started, millions are being invested in the selected growers. This is done in part by foreign investors who want to gain a foothold in Europe’s first legal cannabis market for leisure use.
This will further delay the trial as these investors need to be investigated first. One in ten growers is still awaiting final approval from the government.
The Cabinet wants to use the cannabis trial to investigate whether the sale of hemp and hashish can be legalized in the Netherlands and what consequences it has for crime and public health. By the end of 2020, ten growers were selected by lottery to sell their cannabis to be grown in the Netherlands to coffee shops in eleven designated municipalities, including Heerlen and Maastricht.
The plan stems from the coalition agreement from 2017; the first legal cannabis should have been for sale now. However, the sale has been postponed until at least April 2023. This is partly due to the new investors, but some growers cannot get a location in the municipality they have specified either. In addition, some growers can not open a bank account. Banks are reluctant because they do not want to be associated with cannabis cultivation.
Access to legal market
The last breeder still waiting for an agreement on his investor is Leli Holland. However, Canadian grower Village Farms has already taken an option on 80 percent of the company’s shares. Leli Holland’s website has since linked directly to Village Farm’s website.
Leli Holland does not want to answer questions from NOS until the government has given final permission for their participation.
After obtaining the license, Grower Growery also sold a large portion of the shares to a Canadian investor. It concerns the company Aurora, which had also submitted a business plan for the experiment, but was chosen by drawing lots. “We see the experiment as a prelude to the opening of the legal cannabis market in the Netherlands,” says Gerben Dreijer from Aurora Holland.
Another big investor is the Dutch businessman Corné Melissen, former right-hand man for entrepreneur Marcel Boekhoorn. He is investing heavily in cannabis cultivation with his investment company Kenzoll. “I invest in cannabis companies in several places,” he says. “We have a majority interest in companies in Canada and Zimbabwe, and in the Netherlands we now have an interest in the selected breeder Supraleaf.” Melissen is still in negotiations with a number of other Dutch growers.
Melissen first wanted to attend, but was pulled out. Now, in addition to being a shareholder, he is also one of the two board members of Supraleaf. “It’s a potentially big business,” he agrees. “If it was just an experiment, I would not have participated. I’m an entrepreneur, I want access to the legal cannabis market.”
It is not permitted by law to resell the permit to participate in the trial, but according to the Ministry of Health, such stock trading and management changes are permitted. However, it must be reported in writing so that an integrity survey of the new investors can be carried out.
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For example, the government will prevent growers from working with ‘criminal’ money or from also supplying hashish to the illegal market. The ministry acknowledges that these investigations took much longer than estimated.
†do not lose momentum ‘
The fact that it is legally allowed to attract new investors after a breeder has been drawn does not mean that it is desirable, says André Knottnerus. He is a professor of family medicine at Maastricht University and chaired the committee that issued advice on the design and control of the cannabis experiment.
“The focus of the experiment should be on the effects of legalization on public health and the fight against crime, not on making as much money as possible,” he says. “In addition, good competition on price and quality requires that the cultivation companies that are registered by drawing lots are not financially or administratively entangled.”
At the time, the advisory committee recommended selecting the applications that scored highest on cannabis prevalence and success rate. “It would probably have worked faster and better than drawing lots,” Knottnerus said. “The Cabinet must now prevent further loss of pace. We must not lose momentum.”
Also read: ‘Experienced cannabis growers should be given priority’
The method is also criticized among the growers selected by drawing lots. “Good plans, presented on the basis of idealism, seem to have failed in a number of cases against parties trying to get their hands on the million-dollar market,” said lawyer Errol Opering. He assists a number of breeders who were selected for the experiment. There are still various cases pending against the state of affairs around the draw.
6500 kilos of weeds
In order to meet the demand in the future, the ten growers must each produce around 6,500 kilos of legal weeds per year. According to those involved, this requires an investment of between 15 and 30 million euros.
“The risk lies with the investors in this experiment,” says Gerben Dreijer from Aurora. “We are investing large sums in setting up cultivation, but we depend on the government when we can really start supplying the coffee bars. If it comes too early, there will be too little supply if we have to wait too long. incur unnecessary costs. “
On Thursday, the Justice and Security Committee’s Committee on Justice and Security will debate the course of the cannabis case.