Speech VOC voorzitter Derrick Bergman tijdens 420% Herbalist in Akhnaton Amsterdam

Speech Derrick 420% Herbalist Akhnaton Amsterdam 20-4-2024

Afgelopen 20 april gaf de voorzitter van stichting VOC, Derrick Bergman, een speech tijdens het 420% Herbalist evenement in Akhnaton Amsterdam. Onderstaand kan je de tekst terug lezen, evenals kan je een ingekorte Nederlandse versie vinden in Derrick zijn vijfhonderdste column voor CNNBS.

Dear fellow cannabis lovers,

My name is Derrick Bergman and I am chairman of the VOC, het Verbond voor Opheffing van het Cannabisverbod, or in English: the union for the abolition of cannabis prohibition.

The VOC has been working to speed up legalization since 2009. Back then many people thought cannabis was already legal in the Netherlands, including a lot of Dutch people. 

But it is not. The only thing that is really legal in the Netherlands when it comes to cannabis, is to use it when you are 18 years old or older. All the rest: possession, buying, selling, transporting and growing is tolerated at best. 

Even the cannabis in the weed experiment that finally started on December 15 last year is formally illegal to possess. This means that the police can take it from you whenever they want.

The same goes for plants. Many people think 5 plants are allowed, but this is not true. Any amount of plants is illegal, so police can always take them. 

If you grow no more than 5 plants outdoors, you will not be prosecuted when the police finds out. But you will loose your plants and if you rent your house or apartment, you can be evicted for any amount of plants.

This is all very bad. But I’m not here to spoil the irie 420 atmosphere. So I will now switch to positive developments, of which there are plenty.

Starting in Germany, our big neighbor, the richest and biggest country in the European Union. I was in Berlin for three days with VOC secretary Mauro Picavet last week. 

We attended the International Cannabis Business Conference, for which we had gotten free tickets from the organizer. And we spent half a day at the wonderful Hanfmuseum, that is celebrating its’ 30th anniversary this year. 

We had a great talk with director and activist Steffen Geyer and Olli Waack, board member of the union of German cannabis social clubs. Since April 1st possession of 25 grams in public and 50 grams at home is legal in Germany. 

Adults can grow up to 3 plants and smoking in public is legal, with a few exceptions and rules. From July first, cannabis clubs can register and start growing for their members. 

There is a maximum of 500 members per club, consumption inside is not allowed, you can only be a member of one club and you can only become a member if you have been living in Germany for at least 6 months.

This is the biggest breakthrough in cannabis policy reform in Europe in my lifetime. And the activists, Steffen and Olli, but also Georg Wurth of the Deutsche Hanfverband and Mischa Knödt have convinced me that the law will get better soon. 

There will be lawsuits against the government over the ban on consumption in the clubs and the one club per person rule. If these are won, the door is open to allowing tourists to join the clubs, like in Barcelona. I can’t wait.

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of what’s happening in Germany. This is huge. And the chances of a rollback are minimal. 

There are elections in October 2025 and the Christian party is making noise, but even if they win, they must form a coalition government with at least one of the parties in the current government. And they will not allow a rollback.

There’s no time to talk about all the countries that have legalized or are planning to. Malta was the first EU country to legalize. With a lot of rules, but still. Luxemburg quietly legalized, but only possession, use and home growing. 

The next domino to fall will most probably be the Czech Republic. But the German breakthrough has led to debate across Europe. The door is no longer ajar, it’s open.

It’s only a matter of time before the United States will legalize at the federal level. There are now 24 American states that have legalized recreational cannabis. Public support for legalization is at a record 70 percent. 

So the future looks good. But here in the Netherlands, there’s a lot of work to do. The weed experiment is in essence a political tool to delay legalization. Most coffeeshops, about 85 percent, do not take part, so nothing will change for them in the next two to three years. 

So we need to keep the pressure on and push for better policies. The four parties that are now trying to form the new government are not exactly champions of cannabis reform. 

The biggest party, the PVV, wants to put the weed experiment on hold. 

The PVV also wants to close down every coffeeshop within one kilometer of any type of school. This would mean that out of the total of 565 coffeeshops maybe ten could stay open.  

There was no support to put the weed experiment on hold, so it will continue. The plan is to start selling the regulated cannabis in all 10 participating cities from June 17. That date could be postponed, because only 5 of the 10 growers will be ready to supply cannabis in June. 

So what does this all boil down to? 

My main take aways are, 1: that the German breakthrough will have a positive effect on cannabis reform around Europe. And 2: this breakthrough would have been impossible without decades of hard work by activists. 

Cannabis is not going to legalize itself. There are major interests and industries involved. The three biggest enemies of legalization are the pharmaceutical industry, the alcohol industry and the police. They have a lot of money, power and access to media and politicians.

So support cannabis activism, or even better: get involved. We have a VOC table in the 420 room upstairs: feel free to ask any questions to me or my fellow VOC activists Robin and Jef. 

You can check your cannabis with our Dankoscope and there are free brochures, stickers and rolling papers.

Last but not least: big up the Shamba Lion Sound System for putting this event together. Let’s hear it for Tjarda and his crew!

Thank you for listening, enjoy the rest of the evening and see you upstairs!

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