We also caught up with Derrick Bergman, GROWLANDS cofounder, to talk about the state of the Cannabis Industry.
After 17 years, why does The Netherlands need a Cannabis event?
It’s actually 13 years, the last time we had a cannabis fair here in the Netherlands was in 2007. The concept of the cannabis fair is a Dutch invention; we’ve had the Highlife Fair here since the early nineties. Long before Spannabis, Cannafest and all the other European cannabis fairs started out. The political climate in the Netherlands has been very negative for cannabis since about 2000, with ever stricter rules and restrictions and increased repression of homegrowing and growshops. This is the reason the Highlife Fair decided to call it quits in 2007. We think the time is now right to once again have a real cannabis fair in our country: GROWLANDS.
What is your biggest challenge these days?
Of course, we’ve had a lot of meetings since the corona crisis broke out. We have decided to go ahead as planned with GROWLANDS, on August 28 and 29. We’re confident that things will be normalized sufficiently by that time to make the first GROWLANDS fair a success. Our biggest challenge is to find enough companies that are willing to make a commitment in these uncertain times. But so far things are looking up, most companies we talk to are still very excited to finally have a fair on Dutch soil again, after so many years.
How is Cannabis Industry impacted during the lockdown?
We’ve seen an unprecedented move by the Dutch government. On Sunday March 15, they declared that all coffeeshops had to close down within half an hour and stay closed until April 6. This led to long queues at the coffeeshops, rampant black market dealing and complaining mayors. Within 24 hours, the policy was reversed: the coffeeshops can remain open, but only for take away sales. This is comparable to the situation in California and Canada, where cannabis shops have been declared ‘essential businesses’. I suspect the coffeeshops are selling more than usual during our ‘intelligent lockdown’, in the words of our prime minister Mark Rutte. Cannabis events planned for the first half of this year obviously are impacted greatly: all public gatherings are prohibited until June 1st in the Netherlands. I’ve heard from one cannabis seed bank that their sales have exploded since the lockdown started, but I don’t know if this represents a broader trend. One thing is sure: people will want to smoke weed during these trying times.
Should they be an essential service?
Absolutely. At a lot of the queues that formed in front of the coffee shops, street dealers were handing out their business cards. That’s what happens if you shut down regulated sales: the black market takes over in the blink of an eye. Even more important: lots of medical users still buy their cannabis in the coffee shops, for a number of reasons. Cutting off their supply is a violation of basic human rights.
How do we support medical clients?
For a long time, Dutch insurance companies reimbursed the costs of buying legal medical cannabis, produced by Bedrocan. This has unfortunately stopped after a negative advice from a medical advisory board. Not a single insurance company now reimburses the costs for medical cannabis. The government should force them to change this and pay for any patient with a doctor’s prescription for medical cannabis. The government should also allow adults to grow their own cannabis. Every year, hundreds of people are evicted from their house for homegrowing of cannabis for personal use, medical or otherwise. This should stop immediately. On a personal level, anyone can reach out to medical cannabis users they know and simply offer them a helping hand and some weed.
What has inspired you in the last week?
That’s a good question. Music always inspires me, especially the songs of Paul Simon and Bob Marley. Their music gives me comfort, hope, and energy. Nature inspires me, I love watching birds and this time of year they’re coming out in full force, even in the city. I make a 2-weekly podcast about cannabis, ‘High Tea with Derrick & Rens’*, usually in Dutch or in English if we have non-Dutch guests on the show. We taped episode 16 yesterday and I introduced a new segment, ‘Wise Words’, for which I choose an inspiring quote. The first quote was by Dutch actor, writer and tv journalist Wilfried de Jong: ‘When you evoke fantasy in yourself, you create freedom in your head.’
Will this have a lasting impact on cannabis events?
I don’t think so. At some point, we will have to move to a post-Covid-19 world. This isn’t the first large pandemic in human history. The big question is how long the lockdown will last.
What advice do you have for cannabis businesses?
Stay calm. And realize that we are all in this together. Support each other and work together with authorities to your best ability. As a relatively new industry, the cannabis business can be an example, can do things a bit differently. Preferably more humane, more sustainable, more diverse and less profit-driven than traditional industries.
What is the first thing you want to do when this is over?
Visit some of my older friends, including Henk Poncin, founder of the Cannabis College in Amsterdam. He is well over 80 and in weak health. I hope he survives this.
Months from now, what will we have learned from all this?
Call me an optimist, but the world might well be better off after this crisis. More people may realize that the meaning of life does not consist of working and consuming. And hopefully, politics will become a little less divisive.
*Podcast ‘High Tea with Derrick & Rens’ on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/
On Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/user-