On the production of medicinal cannabis in the Netherlands currently rests a monopoly in the hands of Bedrocan BV, the same company that is currently expanding overseas in the Canadian MMPR program and could be merging with Tweed Inc. to become the largest, licensed medicinal cannabis producer in Canada.

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Meet James Burton

Through my work with the Dutch legalization NGO VOC Nederland (and yes, we still need your help), I recently got a chance to meet James Burton: the pioneer of medicinal cannabis in the Netherlands (pictured above).

Diagnosed with glaucoma at early age, the Vietnam veteran (he was in fact, much like other soldiers, already smoking cannabis in Vietnam) introduced the idea of medicinal cannabis in the Netherlands and became the first legal, licensed medicinal cannabis producer in 1993.

The NGO which formed in 1993, Stichting Institute of Medical Marijuana (SIMM), had an incredible strain library containing at least 276 strains, through cooperating with the likes of Ben Dronkers (Sensi Seeds), Arjan Roskam (Green House Seeds), Franco (who now works for Strainhunters / Green House), Nevil (you may have smoked a strain named after him once: Nevil’s Haze) and Adam (Serious Seeds). And cheap too: first for 2,5 gulden per gram, later 3 or 4. That’s roughly, calculated without inflation, 1 or 2 euro per gram.

The SIMM medicinal cannabis container

James’ approach was unique, yet so simple:  when a patient contacted SIMM, they were invited over for a consulting conversation. Once established the condition, 3 strains were given to the patient to try for a week, after which they were asked to return and report which strain worked best. This was done 3 times, after which the right strain for the right condition and patient was established. Sadly enough, all of this research which had been documented has been destroyed after the downfall of SIMM.

After 12 years of cutting edge research, the downfall of SIMM meant James was again financially ruined by a federal government. First in the United States, this time by the Dutch government. Solely for refusing to gamma radiate.

For 10 years, James stayed under the radar to not attract any further attention which in the past hadn’t paid off very well. Too because a helicopter still flies over his house every week, to check with infrared light beams whether or not he’s growing cannabis again.

But with the recent green revolution that is going on across the globe, too on a medicinal level (SIMM already had CBD rich cannabis oil in 2003), James reached out to VOC Nederland earlier this year which resulted in an appearance in the Medicinal Cannabis debate during Cannabis Liberation Day in Amsterdam and a 3 part interview in the Dutch HighLife Magazine.

For those who couldn’t attend Cannabis Liberation Day or can’t read Dutch, there’s too the special report by Cannabis News Network on James’ story embedded below.

As James Burton’s story reveals, the Dutch no longer rightfully export solely good ideas. And thus the following three questions come to mind:

  1. Has the Dutch Office of Medicinal Cannabis ultimately failed?
  2. Why the obligatory Gamma radiation? And what is the effect?
  3. How about other countries and their policies towards medicinal cannabis?

Until those questions are answered, medicinal cannabis patients in the Netherlands are stuck with Bedrocan for their pharmaceutical grade cannabis. As a survey by Dutch medicinal cannabis organisation PGMCG is starting to reveal, most patients still rely on their local coffeeshop, of which the supply side is unregulated and insufficient for patients.

Organizations like VOC Nederland and PGMCG ( the Dutch medicinal cannabis patients organisation) are run solely by volunteers and need your help to survive so they can set the record straight once and for all. You can find the VOC Nederland donate page here, PGMCG can be found here.