Although only the rough outline of the proposal is known so far, the law would most likely license official growers, who will then be allowed to grow specific strains, similar to how medical marijuana is handled in the Netherlands.
Whatever final shape the pilot project takes, it is likely to create a multimillion-dollar industry, and stakeholders — from corporate greenhouse suppliers to coffee shop owners — are vying for a say.
“We ask to be part of making the rules,” said Nicole Maalsté, an activist who helps represent nearly half the 567 Dutch coffee shops nationwide. “We want to be partners in this.”
The coffee shops are a fixture of neighborhood life in many Dutch cities. Close to the picturesque center of Breda, de Baron is typical — as far as the term can be used in an industry that prides itself on individuality. Clientele of various ages hang out, smoke joints or play cards, often for hours.
If it were not for the penetrating smell of cannabis, it could pass for a cafe anywhere. (In another quirk of Dutch law, those who prefer to smoke their hash with tobacco have to leave the premises, as the laws do not allow tobacco smoking in such public rooms.)
A shared fear among those connected to the current coffee shop scene is that a fully open and commercial system would squeeze out the smaller growers they have come to count on.
But others see such a shake-up as an inevitable part of commercialization.
“Whether you like it or not, the consumption is so widespread that you have to organize the production,” said Mr. Depla, the mayor of Breda.
Meteor Systems, a major manufacturer of horticultural systems based in Breda, hopes to be one of the beneficiaries of the revamped law. It produces everything from the irrigation systems used by Dutch tomato growers to the suspension and support systems for commercial flower growers in California.
Since the proposed legalization of cannabis in Canada and several American states, the company has also seen demand increase for its products from legal marijuana growers there. For instance, it is helping to equip greenhouses in British Columbia for the company Canopy Growth. When finished, they will house three million square feet of growing surfaces.
The company hopes to leverage the commercial know-how gained in North American markets to score big in the Netherlands when cannabis production becomes legalized here.
For all the legal challenges around marijuana, growing the plant with professional equipment is much less demanding than a number of other crops, according to Peter Lexmond, Meteor’s commercial director.
“Everyone who can grow a tomato, can grow a pot plant,” he said.