Medical Marijuana Laws in the Netherlands

Updated on January 22, 2019.  Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer

The Netherlands has a reputation for laxity when it comes to marijuana. But just because they have decriminalized “soft” drugs like cannabis, it doesn’t mean they take drug-use lightly. The Policy of Tolerance and their medical marijuana program are both attempts to keep the illegal use of narcotics from escalating. Patients should familiarize themselves with the laws of the land before attempting to get a prescription for medical marijuana in the Netherlands.

Medical Marijuana Use Laws in the Netherlands

Unlike many other nations, the Netherlands places cannabis in a lesser classification. The Opium Act divides narcotics into two categories:

  • Category I (Hard Drugs): Cocaine, heroin, LSD, ecstasy and amphetamines
  • Category II (Soft Drugs): Marijuana, hash, sleeping pills and sedatives

The government recognized a completely drug-free society is impossible. So, while all the above drugs are still technically illegal, the personal use of soft drugs was decriminalized in 1972, which is known as the Policy of Tolerance.

In 2001, the Netherlands went a step further by instituting the Office of Medical Cannabis (OMC). This government-run agency is responsible for the sale and production of medical marijuana in the Netherlands, ensuring all cannabis purchased at Dutch pharmacies is consistently safe and effective.

How the Dutch Medical Marijuana Program Works

The OMC oversees four primary areas:

  1. Cultivation of pharmaceutical-grade cannabis
  2. Patient access to medical marijuana in Dutch pharmacies
  3. Providing cannabis to research facilities and universities for studies
  4. Marijuana exports to other nations

Although the OMC has a list of recommended medical conditions for patients and physicians, they leave the question of when to write cannabis prescriptions in the hands of doctors. The only requirement is that patients must have sought other treatment options, leaving medical marijuana as a last resort.

Marijuana Criminalization in the Netherlands

The personal use of medical marijuana is not a criminal offense in the Netherlands. There are some basic guidelines that both patients and recreational users should follow:

  • Carry only five grams of cannabis or less — unless you have a prescription for more
  • Do not cultivate, distribute or sell marijuana
  • Do not cross the border into another nation with any amount of cannabis
  • Avoid using marijuana in public, as it could result in police confiscation

Penalties that can occur if individuals are found with more than five grams of marijuana include:

  • Five to 30 Grams: A fine of up to €3500
  • Over 30 Grams: A fine of up to €16,750 and up to two years in prison

Legal Limitations of the Netherland’s Medical Marijuana Program

Although it’s one of the most lenient, the Netherlands’ medical marijuana program does have its limitations:

  • Doctors can only prescribe cannabis if patients have attempted other treatments without success.
  • Physicians will write the dosage and type of marijuana on a patient’s prescription.
  • Dutch pharmacies can only sell three types of cannabis.
  • Health insurance does not always cover medical marijuana medications.

Protections for Dutch Patients and Doctors

The medical marijuana program under the watchful eye of the OMC is well-established in the Netherlands. Unlike other nations, there is no stigma attached to using cannabis for medicinal purposes. Prescriptions for medical marijuana are common, and doctors aren’t hurting their medical reputation by prescribing it. Also, patients cannot be prosecuted for the use of prescribed medical marijuana.

Learn More About Global Medical Cannabis Programs

Like the Netherlands, medical marijuana programs are forming all over the world. If you’re interested in these global changes, stay informed with We’re excited to see new policies everywhere that give patients access to medicinal cannabis.

If you’d like to expand your medical marijuana knowledge, be sure to check out our resources. We also answer many of the questions you may have on our blog. Our posts will give you the insight you need to tell others about the benefits of medical marijuana.

Resources for Medical Marijuana Patients in The Netherlands