Newsbrief: Dutch Medical Marijuana Program Runs Up Against Law of the Market 10/22/04

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The Dutch government's pioneering medical marijuana program, where government-approved pot is sold by prescription in pharmacies, is in trouble for the darnedest reason, the Associated Press reported last week. The government ordered up 450 pounds of prime medipot but has sold only 175 -- because people can walk into any "coffee shop" and buy it for less.

In Amsterdam, where marijuana is technically illegal to sell but where authorities turn a blind eye to pot-selling "coffee shops," government-approved medical marijuana goes for $10 to $12 a gram, while "coffee shop" weed goes for as little as $5 a gram, with only the most potent varieties fetching prices near that of prescription pharmacy pot.

"I think it's a shame that they can't deliver a cannabis product a little bit cheaper than the coffee shops," David Watson told the AP. Watson heads Hortapharm, an Amsterdam-based company licensed to research and develop cannabis for pharmaceutical use. "Why is it that a legal commodity is more expensive than an illegal commodity?"

American marijuana exile James Burton is one of the two licensed growers for the Dutch medical marijuana program. He is not happy and predicts that the program will die soon under the conservative government, which he said is not supporting it. "The program's not working," he told the AP. "They have less than 1,000 patients. The whole country is leaning to the right," he said. "I think a year from now this program's gone."

Ben Kuik, head of the Dutch medical cannabis office, confirmed to the AP that the program is up for review next year.

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