Contrary to what many people think cannabis is not legal in the Netherlands. It is merely tolerated. Buying in the coffee shop is no problem, but cultivation is illegal. ‘A completely absurd situation,’ says cannabis journalist/activist Derrick Bergman and the reason for him to battle on a daily basis with his Dutch Union for the abolition of cannabis prohibition (VOC).
While studying journalism Derrick already crossed the country to review coffee shops. Twenty years later, ‘the plant’ provides him with his entire livelihood. As a journalist, but above all as an activist: in his role as chairman of the VOC he DM’s with newscasters and he twitters with politicians. ‘Frappez toujours,’ he calls that. Everything in order to convince the public that global cannabis prohibition is a historic mistake, which solves no problems, but only reinforces or even causes problems. Derrick: ‘We want to seriously solve this problem for society!’ Azarius caught up with him after the monthly VOC meeting, in the coffee shop of course.
For who is the VOC intended?
The name started as a joke and has to do with looking across borders, which the VOC does: we are not a coffee federation, nor a consumers, patients' or breeders club; we represent anyone who is in favour of legalization. Besides connecting all these people our goal is to spread information and grow awareness. We do this by brochures and events like ‘Cannabis Liberation Day’ that we organize every year. This is necessary because how many people do not think you can grow five plants? That’s not true if the police come, they’ll take everything. And if you live in a rented house, you will be evicted in many cases too.
Was it necessary to bring all these people together?
Very much. Cannabis people are very opinionated. Everyone stayed in their own lane. While everyone, from consumers to the entrepreneur in the coffee shop industry, ultimately wants the same thing: much variety, room for small-scale growing and a lot of choice.
Do people listen?
We are now being taken quite seriously: we are called by the media several times a week to give our opinion on this or that. And soon I’m meeting again with Vera Bergkamp of 'the wietlaw of D66’. It’s all little pushes in the right direction.
That 'wietlaw', which extends the policy of tolerance towards production, was recently adopted by the Dutch House of Representatives, is that a step closer to solving the problem?
Certainly. But more importantly, it also adopted an amendment from the party GroenLinks about the legalization of medicinal cannabis cultivation. We're not there yet because there will be an additional voting before it really becomes a law, but something has been put in motion. Dutch politics now knows that some form of regulation is inevitable.
Does the VOC look at foreign examples of regulation?
Definitely, we look at the United States, but also at Spain and what’s happening there with the Cannabis Social Clubs. In Uruguay they tackle it wide: home cultivation, pharmacy sales as clubs are allowed. And look at Canada which is going to legalize recreational use over summer 2017. That is more important than any US state because Canada has such great moral prestige. That will have a lot of influence on the Netherlands and the rest of Europe.
How do you see the future of hashish and cannabis?
I expect limited space for local experimentation with controlled cannabis cultivation, at home, or in clubs. I hope that the results of those experiments are used as a teaching model for the direction we want to give to the legalization. At the same time, I hope the international train keeps riding on, making it increasingly absurd to stick to the statement of ‘cannabis is just junk’.
And how does the real utopia look: a world without prohibition?
More relaxed, less aggressive. I hope it means that many more people, people who are now quite interested but are afraid to break the law or who are simply not at home in the coffee shop, that they can come into contact with cannabis in a completely different way. In America, they sell much more edibles than smokeable marijuana. Maybe that's our future too. What I hope is that all those recreational home growers who are doing nothing because they fear that they will be evicted, start growing again.
Grow & storage tips by Derrick Bergman
This is going to be a crucial year for Dutch cannabis culture according to VOC president Derrick Bergman. If all goes right home growing could become just as normal as buying weed in the coffee shop. In fact, if you are a loving and careful home grower, you can beat the industry easily. Especially if you follow these rules:
Always top your plants
This is a bit of an obvious tip, but when you grow from seed you should never forget to top. Otherwise, you just lose control. Your plant has to grow wide.
This is quite a nice trick that I started to do myself not so long ago. You have to imagine how a lollipop looks. You're cutting all the lower branches of your cannabis plant because there is only small stuff anyway. But if you also remove the small tops on individual branches close to the stem in the flowering stage, the plant is going to invest all his energy into that one bud.
A minimum of two weeks before you’re going to harvest, you should stop feeding. Otherwise, a lot of junk remains in your plant. If you smoke weed in a coffee shop and your throat is getting a little sore, I bet you just smoked plant feeding.
Drying in the dark
Otherwise, some of the cannabinoids transform into other cannabinoids. And your taste goes to hell. Just due to the effect of light. And next to that: good ventilation of course.
Store in glass jars
This will add to the quality of your weed, just like with wine. Definitely. Just don't forget to let in some air from time to time.
And after that, share with your friends =)