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A few months ago, a friend of mine (who is a Dutch citizen) wanted to bring this over-the-counter medicine back from India to the Netherlands.

It's a specially prepared herbal medicine. Herbal medicines would normally be fine to bring to Europe in small quantities (I believe). This one, however, contains roughly 7-9% Cannabis Sativa.

My friend would bring perhaps 100 grams of this medicine (out of which less than 10 grams is actual Cannabis Sativa.)

Now, medicinal use of this plant is locally and partially permitted in India. This particular product is sold in local medical shops, in industrially packed containers by licensed Ayurvedic companies. So as far as Indian law is concerned, in his case, I don't believe that should be a problem.

As far as I know, Cannabis Sativa is also permitted in the Netherlands?

My friend said the medicine would have been a huge help for his condition (hypertension). However, since he was transiting through another European country (I believe Germany or France), I warned him about possible problems at the transit airport. In the end, he decided not to do it.

  1. Was this a well-founded concern?

  2. What if, on his next visit, he takes a direct flight from India to the Netherlands? Would there be any legal problems then?

In both cases, what sort of risks could my friend face in Europe/The Netherlands?

  • Does he have a prescription for this medication? – Summer Sep 5 '16 at 12:54
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    @JaneDoe1337 I think my friend would have a prescription from a licensed Ayurvedic doctor here in India, but I highly doubt that that would be recognized in Europe. – Revetahw Sep 5 '16 at 13:51
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    10 grams is more than the legally 'accepted' amount per person in the Netherlands, so IF you find a clause allowing it for medical use, make sure you have your paperwork in order. As in, flawless. Make sure it shines. Schiphol will likely impound it if you don't. – Mast Sep 5 '16 at 15:00
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    It would probably safer to buy an equivalent product (e.g. Bedrocan) in a pharmacy in the Netherlands (your friend will need a prescription though, possibly written by a Dutch doctor). – assylias Sep 5 '16 at 15:46
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    FWIW, I forwarded your question to the Dutch health authorities (CAK) and got the answer today that they are only competent for issuing authorizations to residents of the Netherlands for bringing medication containing controlled substances from the Netherlands to other countries. To inquire which documentation is required for bringing medication from other countries to the Netherlands, you have to contact the Dutch embassy in the country you are travelling from. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Sep 6 '16 at 10:11
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Import is not permitted:

Travelling to the Netherlands with prescribed medication

If you are traveling to the Netherlands and you are bringing medication with you, there should be no problem at customs if it is clear that the medicine is for personal use. It is recommended to bring a letter from your physician stating the amount of medicine you use per day. It is prohibited to bring narcotics into the country. In case of emergency, if you are in the Netherlands and need specific medication from the US that is not available in the Netherlands, you should contact a pharmacist in the Netherlands who will be able, with your doctor's prescription from the US, to obtain a comparable medicine. Please note that sending unregistered medication to the Netherlands by mail is prohibited. (If the medicine is produced abroad it is considered unregistered in the Netherlands). Please contact us via e-mail if you have any questions.

narcotic.

If declared I would expect confiscation, a warning and no further action.

If not declared and discovered nevertheless I would expect more serious consequences.

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    I am not sure if your interpretation of 'narcotics' is correct here. Dutch Customs has a rather extensive discussion on their web site with links to the health authorities, to describe the differences between controlled substances used as medication (geneesmiddelen) and controlled substances used as narcotics (drugs). The procedure for legally bringing medical cannabis from the Netherlands to other countries are described in detail, but I can't find any description of the requirements for doing it the other way around. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Sep 5 '16 at 21:11
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    That is your interpretation and I still disagree with that. As I already wrote in my first comment, Dutch authorities differentiate between medication (nl: geneesmiddelen) and narcotics (nl: drugs) based on the intended use and not based on the actual substance. A generic 'it is prohibited to bring [controlled substances] into the country' (if that is your interpretation of the quoted text) is clearly contradicted by the Dutch authorities' information on how to travel within the Schengen area with such substances. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Sep 5 '16 at 22:20
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    The Dutch Embassy responded to me by email: "Thank you for your e-mail. Since this is a specific question that the Embassy has not yet dealt with before we will do our best to contact the relevant Government bodies in order to find the right information. Their protocol concerning this matter has to be looked into. We will try to answer your question as soon as possible. Best Regards, Ben Feijs Economic Affairs" – Revetahw Sep 7 '16 at 9:54
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    @Fiksdal Then let us hope that the embassy does not contact CAK (most likely the 'relevant government body'), which will tell them that the embassy is responsible for the decision :) – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Sep 7 '16 at 10:40
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo I got a response from the Dutch Embassy. The guy there actually researched whether it would be alright according to Indian law, and answered based on that. I found that very weird. I then asked him, what about Dutch law. He answered that he didn't know and referred me to the Dutch customs authorities... Sigh... Oh well, better contact them. – Revetahw Sep 16 '16 at 11:34
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Actually, the Netherlands is not necessarily any different than France or Germany in this respect and this is very likely not to be allowed. The country is notorious for its very visible "tolerance" policy towards recreative use but it is still forbidden to grow and/or import cannabis and your friend could easily run into problems for trying to cross the border with a cannabis product.

Briefly, the way the policy regarding recreational use of cannabis works is that so-called "coffee shops" are allowed to sell cannabis (under a number of conditions) without fearing enforcement but the law itself hasn't been changed and the Netherlands is still a party to the relevant international treaties. Most notably, there is no legal way to procure cannabis in the first place. Growing is forbidden, importing is forbidden, large transactions are forbidden and all these rules are actively enforced, all the way to police razzia and jail terms for people making money in the production of cannabis. This is usually called achterdeurbeleid or "back-door policy" because everybody knows that if businesses can sell cannabis it must come from somewhere but it can't come through the front-door.

For small quantities (plants at home, smoking cannabis in public), the main consequence would be seizure, perhaps a fine. I don't know exactly about medicinal products found at the airport but I would guess it's the same and your friend would not risk jail (but if he is a third-country citizen, this might very well have consequences for his visa). I still wouldn't try it.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Mark Mayo Sep 7 '16 at 14:03
  • I got a response from the Dutch Embassy. The guy there actually researched whether it would be alright according to Indian law, and answered based on that. I found that very weird. I then asked him, what about Dutch law. He answered that he didn't know and referred me to the Dutch customs authorities... Sigh... Oh well, better contact them. – Revetahw Sep 16 '16 at 11:34
  • And the customs helpline say they don't know and are referring me to something called the CAK.. Haha :) – Revetahw Sep 22 '16 at 16:23

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