Updated on January 25, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
While they don’t have a medical marijuana program like some states in the U.S., the Netherlands has a government office that handles medical marijuana. They opened the Office of Medicinal Cannabis (OMC) in 2001 to provide patients in need with access to medical marijuana.
Although many of us have heard about the Netherlands’ tolerance of cannabis, leniency does not mean legality. Police can still seize any amount of marijuana, and anyone with more than five grams can receive a fine or jail time. The Netherlands focuses on education instead of criminalization when it comes to cannabis, but there are still penalties that users can face.
So, the only way to legally medicate with cannabis in the Netherlands is to get a prescription for it. By getting your medication from a pharmacy, you can use your prescription as documentation that you have the right to use it.
Getting a prescription for cannabis works a lot like getting one for standard medicine. But, the OMC advises doctors to follow certain guidelines when they prescribe, so you should only try to get a prescription if you meet them.
A person with any condition can get a prescription if they’ve tried other treatments first. Doctors will provide prescriptions when they believe cannabis medicine will work better than what the patient has used in the past. While your doctor will make the final call, the OMC highlights the following conditions as appropriate for medical marijuana use:
If your doctor refuses to write you a prescription, you may benefit from getting a second opinion from another physician.
Since the Netherlands doesn’t make you join a government program to get medical marijuana, you don’t have to renew a registration — simply continue your marijuana treatment like you would with any other medication. You’ll just need to keep in touch with your doctor and take any precautions needed for international travel.
At first, your doctor will probably prescribe a low dosage so you can get used to your new medication. If you don’t get enough benefits from that dose, they may increase your dosage. The Netherlands doesn’t enforce a maximum dosage, so your doctor can prescribe as much medicine as you need to feel better.
Dutch patients who want to travel abroad can take their medicine with them to Schengen countries if they carry a declaration with them. Schengen countries include countries in Europe that have agreed to open their borders for free trade and travel amongst themselves.
Any Dutch doctor can prescribe medical marijuana if they feel their patient qualifies for it. But, they should make sure their prescriptions comply with the Dutch Opium Act. When writing a prescription, your doctor should specify:
Doctors should also write separate prescriptions for each medication if they order more than one kind of marijuana medicine. Read the OMC’s brochure for physicians for more information.
Curious patients and doctors can contact the Office of Medicinal Cannabis for more information. Our resource library can teach you what you need to know to ask their staff informed questions. For international medical marijuana news in the Netherlands and beyond, follow our blog for the latest updates.