As the selling of weed faces controversies in the Netherlands, a possible implementation of a quality stamp for coffeeshops might help consumers feel safer.
On January 25, the PCN, an association of coffeeshops and other cannabis businesses, presented its plan to develop a national quality certification for coffeeshops.
“I think people generally expect the shops to sell trustworthy things and personally, if I read what the stamp is about, I would probably feel a little safer, or at least more informed”, tells Matas Farkas, a regular consumer.
For him, the process of producing and selling clean cannabis is important if it is supposed to be sustained as a good business. “And if there isn’t a lot of trust between the government and stores, it makes sense to build it to regulate the business more”, he adds.
After being implemented in Haarlem 10 years ago, a local certification has shown positive results within coffee shops in this city. Now, the PCN intends to take it to a national level with the goal of improving their relationship with local government and providing good quality products to their customers.
“We are taken seriously now by the local authorities, by the council members. They talk to us regularly and they also take seriously what we say”, explains Derrick Bergman, spokesperson of VOC, a national foundation concerned with cannabis policy.
Still in the beginning stages, the project aims not only to ensure that coffeeshops are clean, that their personnel are properly trained to sell cannabis, but also to build a more trusting relationship with their clients.
For Bergman, as a consumer and activist, “the most important thing is the quality of the weed”. As he says, the number one concern for the consumer is whether the cannabis is clean or if it doesn’t have any pesticides nor chemicals. However, “right now nobody can really guarantee it because it’s all on the ground”.
The reason for this is that coffeeshops are not authorized to test or have tested their product in a lab, making it difficult to know how much THC and CBD and other compounds are in there. In this sense, the main goal for this certification program is to build a better communication with the authorities so these shops could have a place to test their cannabis or “maybe produce for themselves or have their own productions”, explains the spokesperson of VOC.
Improving their image
Although it may seem normal for a foreigner, coffeeshops have faced a bad reputation within media and some authorities, creating a negative image and advertisement for them. “They are criminalized. They are almost demonized”, points out Bergman.
He explains that this happens because local authorities and politicians have never been once inside a coffeeshop. “If they finally pay a visit, they are totally surprised. We think it would be all junkies and wouldn’t be a pleasant place and it will be dirty and it’s not like that at all”.
His idea with the certification would be creating anything that can help close the “reality gap” between coffeeshops and government. Like this, people can understand that “coffeeshops are not the enemy, they are the ally of the authorities and also of the parents”.
“If my boys want to try cannabis, what would I want? Better that they get it on the street corner like in most countries, you know, with a guy with a gun or go into a nice, good shop?”, he finishes.