Ever since Kees Valstar sold his shares in the Best Fresh Group, he’s been working on, among other things, marketing fibre hemp for Healthy Plant Products. “The Netherlands has as much as 2,000 hectares of outdoor fibre hemp. Car doors and dashboards are made of this, among other products, but the ingredient Cannabidiol (CBD) is extracted from the hemp plant’s leaves and flowers, and used as a dietary supplement. I don’t understand why the positive characteristics of the hemp plant are neglected, while they have so much to offer. A completely different world has opened up to us.”
Valstar is now orienting itself on the production of medicinal weed. To that end, they have started working with John Harting, manager of tomato nursery Harting Holland, and Bram van Marrewijk, founder of consultancy AAB. The Dutch men have drawn up a so-called 'position paper
' (Link to Dutch article) to get political exemption to start growing medicinal cannabis on a relatively small but professional scale. “In other countries, led by Canada and the US, horticultural entrepreneurs are investing considerably in the production of medicinal weed. The Dutch greenhouse builders and suppliers are working on it. Our country has the knowledge, but steps have to be taken, and that starts with the government!”
Canada and Germany
“We took the initiative to research if the production of medicinal cannabis is feasible. We haven’t quite figured out how to do this yet,” Kees says. He’s come up against obstructions from the authorities. “In the Netherlands, the situation is such that if you obtain an exemption, you have to sell your production to the government. We don’t believe in this, because it turns the government into a commercial party. We think the government should set the rules, and then function as a kind of referee to make sure the rules are followed. Canada, for example, does it like this, and the rules in Germany are also being changed. A ban on cannabis is just as short-sighted as banning mushrooms because they might be magic mushrooms.”
Small scale in Groningen
“In Groningen, in the north of the Netherlands, there’s a grower of medicinal weed, but this is very small-scale, about 2,000 kilograms per year. We believe there are more chances for a larger scale, professional production. The production of medicinal cannabis is interesting for the Westland, but also for the Netherlands. If we can manage to professionalise production and processing of the product, I’m convinced we can considerably reduce the cost of our health care. We have the knowledge, and because of that, we have a chance to become leading in this industry. We always pretend the Westland is the green pharmacy of Europe. Because of this, we have the opportunity to make the transformation from chemical to green pharmacy,” Kees concludes.
“In the Netherlands, we have all of the horticultural knowledge to conquer the world with the production of medicinal cannabis. It’s such a shame that we only bring our technology for these applications abroad,” says Meiny Prins, CEO of Priva, in the paper mentioned above. Initiator John Harting confirms this in that same paper: “The current grower is ready for the production of new crops. We’re missing an enormous opportunity if we don’t offer them the space to also grow cannabis. It’s happening either way. They’re working on it in Canada and the US, but I’ve also seen growers in countries such as the UK, Denmark and Spain preparing for it. As soon as a crop has potential, it can become an enormous success thanks to the Dutch horticultural sector. Twenty years ago, hardly anyone had heard of the Phalaenopsis, or moth orchid, and now it’s one of the biggest successes of our national horticultural sector in the Netherlands, Europe and the rest of the world.”