The Dutch tolerance policy

From the 1970s, Dutch drug policy made a distinction between soft and hard drugs. All attention was first focused on repressing the trade in hard drugs. The fight against soft drugs was therefore neglected. This is how the typical Dutch phenomenon of “tolerance policy” arose. This means that soft drug use is prohibited according to the Opium Act, but when violated it will be tolerated.


In fact, it is not legally permitted in the Netherlands to produce or trade soft drugs. However, the Board of Prosecutors General have drawn up national guidelines on how to comply with the law. Local prosecutors may differ from these guidelines, but they are usually followed. The guidelines state that there is no need to conduct in the coffee shop if a coffee shop sticks to certain rules when selling hashish or weed. This creates a controlled environment in which the use and sales take place. These rules are the so-called AHOJGI criteria.

A: No posters (advertising). This means no advertising for cannabis other than an indication on the facade that this is a coffee shop.
H: No hard drugs. Hard drugs can not be available and sold in a coffee shop.
O: No nuisance. Nuisance includes: noise disturbance, pollution or customers hanging around in front of or near the coffee shop.
J: No sales to under-18s and no access to under-18s to a coffee shop.
G: No sales of large quantities per customer per transaction. A coffee shop is not allowed to sell more than 5 grams per person per day.
I: No access to and sale to anyone other than residents of the Netherlands in the coffee shop.


It has also been specified that the coffee shop may not have a larger trading stock than 500 grams. The policy of the local coffee shop  is shaped in the so-called triangle meeting. This is a consultation between the mayor, the police commissioner and the public prosecutor. This consultation may differ from the guidelines. The triangular consultation can therefore decide not to allow a coffee shop in its municipality or to limit the numbers of coffee shops.

This policy is enforced by mandatory checks by the police (approximately six times a year). The coffee shop risks having to close for three to six months or eventually for good if they don’t follow the rules.


The courts will not take action against a possession of a maximum of five grams. This is seen as a supply for own use. For quantities between five and thirty grams, a criminal response may follow upon discovery. However, tracking this has no priority.


If less than five plants are grown without technical aids (lamps, etc.), a dismissal will be submitted with the materials present. The presence of more than five plants is seen by the judiciary as commercial cultivation and therefore has priority in the investigation.


Since the smoking ban for the catering industry, from 1 July 2008, smoking joints with tabacco has also been banned in the coffee shop. Smoking pipes, water pipes, vaporizers and tabacco free pure joints are allowed. A larger coffee shop often has a separate smoking area. There are tabacco substitutes on the market with which the hemp products can be mixed.


  • No alcohol is served in the coffee shop.
  • The use of cannabis is prohibited in cafés and restaurants.
  • Smoking cannabis is prohibited in other public places.
  • The sale of hallucinogenic mushrooms in the coffee shop is prohibited.

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