A Dutch experiment to supply some of the country's famous "coffee shops" with legal cannabis in a bid to curb criminality and social problems will start in December, the government announced Friday.
The use of small amounts of cannabis has been decriminalized in the Netherlands since 1976, but the wholesale growth and supply of marijuana remains banned, giving rise to involvement by organized crime.
The Netherlands gave the green light in 2019 to the far-reaching experiment under which it will allow the soft drug to be supplied legally in 10 municipalities with an 11th under consideration.
"The cabinet has decided that the start-up phase of the closed coffee shop chain experiment will start on December 15," it said.
"The latest timetable shows that two more legal growers are expected to be ready for delivery to coffee shops in the fourth quarter of 2023," a cabinet statement said.
Coffee shops in the southern cities of Breda and Tilburg will serve as the first test cases of the experiment "offering both legally cultivated as well as decriminalized products".
"This way, we can gain experience with the closed chain and all the processes that come with it," the Dutch cabinet said.
"The start-up phase will be monitored. If public order or safety is seriously threatened, it will be stopped early."
The next phase involving all participating municipalities is expected to start later next year.
In total, there are 564 coffee shops in the country, mostly in Amsterdam.