Shipping medical cannabis: a Dutch perspective

Shipping medical cannabis: a Dutch perspective
© iStock/jhorrocks

Malti Ramdharie of CIBG tells MCN about the shipping and supply of medical cannabis in the Netherlands.

Dutch patients have been able to access medical cannabis through pharmacies since September 2003. The supply and production of medical cannabis in the Netherlands is overseen by the Office of Medicinal Cannabis (OMC), a division of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. Legal medicinal cannabis in the Netherlands is grown by a professional company in accordance with standards outlined in the European Directives on Herbal Medicines, which set stringent regulatory requirements governing the pharmaceutical quality of medical grade cannabis.

Once cannabis has been harvested, dried and processed, it is packaged in bags of 250g; the duty pharmacist of the Office for Medicinal Cannabis evaluates and records the weight and appearance of the batch. A sample of each harvest is passed to an independent laboratory for further testing in order to ensure that the product falls in line with quality standards covering its of active ingredients; moisture content; and the potential presence of harmful external substances, including heavy metals, pesticides and microorganisms.

After a batch of cannabis has been tested and approved in the laboratory, it is treated with gamma radiation to decontaminate it of any residual microorganisms, parasites or fungi and then transferred to a packaging and distribution centre, where 5g portions are manually packaged by specialist staff for bulk delivery to pharmacies.

The Office of Medicinal Cannabis has been the government body responsible for regulating and supplying medical cannabis in the Netherlands since 2001. In addition to overseeing the domestic production and supply of cannabis for clinical use, the OMC can provide legal cannabis supplies for academic research studies and holds sole responsibility for the import and export of cannabis into and out of the Netherlands.

Malti Ramdharie of CIBG, the policy arm of the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, tells MCN publication about the shipping and supply of medical cannabis in the Netherlands.

What are the regulations governing the import of medical cannabis into the Netherlands?

Under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the Office of Medicinal Cannabis has the exclusive right to import and export cannabis, cannabis extracts and cannabis resin. If a company within the Netherlands wants to import or export these products, this must be done via the OMC – and that is only possible if the Dutch company has an exemption under the Opium Act. However, exemptions are only granted for the conduct of scientific or analytical chemical research or for the development of medicines; and not for commercial purposes or to growers who want to supply directly to the market.

Which countries do Dutch suppliers most frequently export cannabis products to?

The Office of Medicinal Cannabis is the only body permitted to supply medicinal cannabis for use by the Dutch patients. The OMC also exports to several European countries, including Germany and Italy; and in smaller quantities to Czechia; Denmark; Finland; North Macedonia; Poland; Sweden; Switzerland; and the UK.

Would non-Dutch patients from other EU Member States be able to obtain medical cannabis in the Netherlands with the appropriate prescription?

Every pharmacy in the Netherlands can provide medicinal cannabis with the appropriate prescription. However, foreign patients are not allowed to take the cannabis they receive in the Netherlands with them to their own country. If they want to use Dutch medicinal cannabis in their own country, their pharmacy can import it via the OMC, but the local authorities would have to grant an import licence to the pharmacy.

Could patients entering the Netherlands bring in their own legally prescribed cannabis, in small quantities?

No, that is not allowed.

What actions are taken to ensure illicit or black market cannabis does not enter the supply chain?

The Office of Medicinal Cannabis is responsible for the production of cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes and has a monopoly on supplying medicinal cannabis to pharmacies. We have contracted a grower through a tendering procedure and we closely supervise the entire chain, from grower to packager and logistics service provider, to ensure the legitimacy of products and processes at every stage.

Maltie Ramdharie
Senior Communications Adviser

This article is for issue 3 of Medical Cannabis Network. Click here to get your free subscription today.

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