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By Derrick Bergman

A new study by Radboud University in the Netherlands paves the way for legalizing cannabis production to supply the country’s famous coffeeshops. The study, commissioned by 27 Dutch cities that favor legalization and published Monday, concludes that international treaties do not prevent Holland from taking this long-awaited step.

Regulated production will improve health and safety, according to the report. As such, legalization isn’t only justified — it’s obligatory on the part of governments “on the basis of their positive human rights obligations for the protection of individual and public health, the security of citizens and crime control,” the report says.

The title of the 396-page study, authored by professor Piet Hein van Kempen and Masha Fedorova, is a mouthful: International law and cannabis II. Regulation of cannabis cultivation and trade for recreational use: positive human rights obligations versus UN Narcotic Drugs Conventions. But its contents could spur a breakthrough in the political debate around legalization in the Netherlands.

“This report enables us to take a sorely needed step,” Victor Everhardt, alderman of public health for the city of Utrecht, told newspaper De Volkskrant. “Legalization of cannabis will give local governments insight into what is now unseen. With legalization we can combat the excesses of the tolerance policy.”

Dutch ministers of justice have claimed for years that international drug treaties leave no room whatsoever for the regulation of cannabis cultivation. The stubborn opposition has resulted in a stalemate, and it feeds the so-called “backdoor paradox.” Coffeeshops are allowed to sell cannabis under strict conditions, but cultivation and wholesale distribution remain strictly prohibited. Dutch police now spend more than half their time and resources fighting cannabis.

The situation has been compared to legalizing milk while prohibiting cows.

Virtually no one expects current Prime Minister Mark Rutte to take progressive steps on cannabis, but national elections are scheduled for less than a year away, March 2017. Many feel it’s unrealistic for a new government to continue pretending the cannabis sold in the Netherlands’ 582 coffeeshops simply falls from the sky.

The study, including an executive study in English, can be found here as a PDF.

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