Solving the Dutch Pot Paradox: Legal to Buy, but Not to Grow

BREDA, Netherlands — Acting on an anonymous tip about marijuana growers, Dutch police officers last month raided a basement laboratory in Best, a small village about 15 miles from the Belgian border.

The officers found 539 plants in four growing rooms equipped with sophisticated equipment like a programmable irrigation system. The operation would bring in about $66,000 every 10 weeks, according to the police report.

While the news of a marijuana raid in the Netherlands may have been surprising to the throngs of tourists who visit the famous coffee shops in Amsterdam or Rotterdam, it is illegal to grow more than five cannabis plants for recreational use in what has long been seen as Europe’s marijuana capital. And the Dutch national police actively seek out and shut down hundreds of operations a year.

While licensed coffee shops have the right to sell small amounts of recreational cannabis and hash to buyers older than 18, they have to rely on the black market to acquire their wares in bulk.

“Right now, you are allowed to buy the milk, but you can’t know anything about the cow,” said Vera Bergkamp, a lawmaker with D66, a center-left party in the governing coalition that…

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