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Netherlands votes in favour of regulated marijuana production

A man smokes a cigarette of marijuana in an Amsterdam cafe
Christopher Furlong | Getty Images
A man smokes a cigarette of marijuana in an Amsterdam cafe

The Netherlands has moved a step closer to regulating the production of cannabis in bid to remove a grey area that has stymied the country's famously relaxed approach to the recreational drug.

For decades it has been acceptable to buy small amounts of marijuana in the country's so-called coffee shops, however the cultivation and sale of the drug has remained prohibited, prompting much political and public debate.

However, Dutch MPs voted on Tuesday by a narrow majority of 77 to 72 to regulate the production of the drug, a move that supporters claim will reduce coffee shops' dependency on criminal networks.

A worker trims cannabis
Uriel Sinai | Getty Images
A worker trims cannabis

Growing debate

The proposals must also receive majority support from the Senate before being made law, yet they come at an interesting time for the country which is due to go to the polls in a general election on March 15.
The vote in the Dutch lower house of parliament, did not receive support from Prime Minister Mark Rutte's Liberal party, VVD; however it did from Labour, its coalition partner.

With none of the major Dutch parties expected to win a majority, a coalition government is once again likely, prompting further conflict over the highly controversial issue.

CBS, the Dutch national statistics bureau, estimated that in 2010 the cannabis business added approximately 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) to the national economy.

Current estimates from Dutch polling indicator Peilingwijzer suggests that far-right party leader Geert Wilder, has a narrow lead on the incumbent Liberal party.

A win for Wilder could spell further trouble for the EU, which faces uncertainty in a year of European elections in France and Germany, however most countries have ruled out joining a coalition with him, following a series of controversial policies.