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Why Dutch Cannabis Pioneer Won’t Move Into Recreational

Big Buds Magazine

The primary Cannabis Capital Conference was held this previous September in Amsterdam, and one of many highlights was the presentation by leaders of Dutch hashish producers Bedrocan. Co-founder and CEO Tjalling Erkelens, together with chief monetary officer Mauricio Agudelo, started by debunking a persistent fantasy relating to the origins of the corporate’s identify.

Legend had it that the corporate was named in honor of Ben Dronkers, the founding father of Sensi Seeds and the Hash, Marihuana and Hemp Museum — as in BEn DROnkers CANnabis. It’s an excellent story, nevertheless it’s not true. Bedrocan truly refers back to the names of the 2 founders, Freerk Bruining (B) and Tjalling Erkelens (E); the Dutch phrase for dry, “droog” (DRO); and hashish, natch (CAN).

Whatever the origin of the corporate’s identify, Bedrocan is a real pioneer in medical hashish. Upon founding the corporate in 1984, Bruining and Erkelens initially grew chicory, herbs and potted crops indoors earlier than experimenting with their first batch of hashish seeds in 1992. Quickly after, they determined to focus solely on medical marijuana.

The Netherlands launched its well-known tolerance coverage for hashish in 1976, however it wasn’t till 1999 that the federal government began a medical hashish program. At the moment, there have been 4 corporations and organizations that have been rising and supplying medical-grade hashish to hundreds of sufferers. This was technically unlawful, nevertheless it was tolerated by authorities.

Most outstanding amongst these early pioneers have been MariPharm in Rotterdam and the Institute of Medical Marijuana (SIMM), based by James Burton, a Vietnam veteran from America who fled to Holland within the 1980s. Per the United Nations drug treaties, the Dutch authorities arrange the Workplace of Medicinal Cannabis (BMC) to be liable for the manufacturing of medical hashish and to offer dispensations from the Dutch Opium Act that growers require.

Bedrocan, MariPharm and SIMM initially acquired dispensations, and historical past was made in September 2003 when the primary absolutely authorized medical hashish went on sale in Dutch pharmacies. However Bedrocan was quickly left as the only authorized producer of medical hashish within the Netherlands when MariPharm and SIMM misplaced their dispensations inside two years. Burton was notably outspoken towards the BMC and predicted that the medical hashish program would turn into a fiasco. Certainly, gross sales lagged far behind expectations, the weed within the pharmacies was costly, and for years there was just one pressure obtainable. Bedrocan was struggling to outlive, promoting not more than round 154 kilos yearly.

The corporate was — and nonetheless is — between two fires. On one aspect, there are the sufferers who need extra — extra strains, extra analysis, and extra merchandise like oil, tinctures and concentrates. On the opposite aspect, there’s the BMC, which appears to need to hold medicinal hashish as small and as restricted as attainable.

Rows of crops at Bedrocan’s Vendeem facility.
(Photograph courtesy of Derrick Bergman)

There was some enchancment in 2009 when Bedrocan acquired approval to extend the variety of strains it produces, so the workforce labored exhausting and stored a low profile on the develop facility in Veendam, situated within the northeast of the nation. The work resulted in 5 trademarked Bedrocan strains:


  • Launched in 2003, most generally used product
  • 22% THC, lower than 1% CBD
  • Sativa, cultivar identify: Afina
  • Obtainable as flower


  • Launched in 2005
  • 13.5% THC, lower than 1% CBD
  • Sativa, cultivar identify: Ludina
  • Obtainable as flower


  • Launched in 2007, first pressure particularly bred for top CBD content material
  • 6.three% THC, eight% CBD
  • Sativa, cultivar identify: Elida
  • Out there as granulate


  • Launched in 2011, accommodates comparatively excessive focus of myrcene, a terpene recognized for its calming results
  • 14% THC, lower than 1% CBD
  • Indica, cultivar identify: Talea
  • Out there as granulate


  • Launched in 2014 as a “CBD-only product” with virtually no THC
  • Lower than 1% THC, 9% CBD
  • Sativa, cultivar identify: Rensina
  • Obtainable as granulate

Two issues are central to every part Bedrocan does: Standardization and high quality management — each important to delivering constant high quality. It took Bedrocan years to get it proper, simply because it took years to develop placebos for every of its 5 varieties.

2013 represented an important time for the corporate, with increasingly more nations legalizing medicinal hashish and lots of of them ordering it from the BMC, which in flip ordered product from Bedrocan.

To accommodate the rising demand, Bedrocan opened a second develop facility in Emmeloord in 2016. The corporate produced greater than 2,300 kilos of hashish that yr, roughly half of which was bought within the Netherlands and the remaining exported. Manufacturing doubled to greater than four,400 kilos final yr, principally in response to a brand new contract with Germany for 1,500 kilos of medicinal hashish.

Bedrocan at present employs greater than 100 individuals within the Netherlands and operates 40 develop rooms worldwide, with a complete manufacturing capability of almost 20,000 kilos. The merchandise can be found in 18 nations and territories throughout 4 continents.

Huge Buds lately sat down with co-founder and CEO, “Mister Bedrocan” Tjalling Erkelens, to mirror on the previous many years and the way forward for the corporate.

Bedrocan cannabisBedrocan cannabis

Bedrocan CEO Tjalling Erkelens speaks on the 2018 Cannabis Capital Conference in Amsterdam.
(Photograph courtesy of Derrick Bergman)

Massive Buds: 2019 will mark 35 years since Bedrocan first launched. Has the legalization of medicinal hashish all over the world gone slower or quicker than you anticipated?
Tjalling Erkelens: At first, say, till 2012, it went slower. Then it went at a traditional tempo, and since 2017 at a a lot quicker tempo than I anticipated.

BB: Bedrocan was granted the Good Manufacturing Apply (GMP) certificates in 2017. How necessary was this, and why wasn’t it acquired till 2017?
TE: Since 2008, Bedrocan was already ISO [International Organization for Standardization] licensed. At the moment, GMP certification for the manufacturing of pharmaceutical uncooked supplies didn’t but exist. That solely got here into view someplace in 2013, so it took us greater than two years to realize this certification. What is exclusive about it’s that it covers all the course of, from clone to packaged product. This makes Bedrocan the primary hashish manufacturing firm on the earth to have a GMP certificates overlaying the complete cultivation course of.

BB: In 2017, Bedrocan accepted the primary capital injection from an exterior investor. Are you able to clarify how this happened?
TE: We had been on the lookout for an appropriate investor for a while to have the ability to finance additional medical analysis, product improvement and scale up our manufacturing. We’ve all the time been very essential of the aims of potential buyers. Bedrocan has chosen to solely produce hashish for medicinal functions and never for leisure use. The investor we have been on the lookout for needed to meet this goal. Once we discovered the fitting celebration and in addition went by way of a considerable capability enlargement, we determined to take this step. We’re at present contemplating a subsequent capital injection.

BB: Some sufferers within the Netherlands are very important concerning the gamma irradiation that Bedrocan does, claiming it damages the terpenes within the plant. Why does Bedrocan use gamma radiation?
TE: Gamma irradiation of our hashish is carried out by our contracting get together, the Dutch authorities. It has been proven that sufferers, notably those that have issues with their immune system, might expertise dangerous results — and even demise — from lung infections brought on by sure fungal species, particularly aspergillus, spores of that are commonly present in hashish. This primarily considerations hashish that’s inhaled. Bedrocan has twice investigated the attainable results of gamma irradiation on the lively compounds in hashish, together with terpenes. In each instances it was established that cannabinoids aren’t affected by gamma rays.

Terpenes have been proven to scale back barely, so they don’t change. The discount is corresponding to the impact of roughly two weeks of getting older of freshly dried hashish. You’ll want to see these two weeks within the perspective of the usual shelf lifetime of hashish, which is a yr, from the second of harvesting. Inside that yr, the full lower in substances shouldn’t be such that the chemical content material of the product falls outdoors the usual limits.

BB: Many Canadian licensed producers first cultivated solely medicinal hashish, however now additionally produce for the adult-use market. Why has Bedrocan all the time dominated this out?
TE: You possibly can’t examine sufferers to leisure customers. Most sufferers have a low to very low revenue and are completely not taken with getting excessive. Multi-year analysis exhibits that Dutch sufferers use a mean of zero.7 grams per day. Analysis by Syqe Medical, amongst others, has proven that with the fitting technique of administration, most sufferers would wish even much less. Moreover, producers for leisure use are usually not enthusiastic about spending cash on medical analysis, one thing we desperately want at this stage. We already see that some producers in Canada, because the full legalization on October 17, have shifted their whole manufacturing to the leisure market and sufferers actually can’t get something. That’s unprecedented for a product that must be obtainable to individuals as a drugs.

BB: The bidding process for medical hashish producers within the Netherlands will restart quickly. How does Bedrocan really feel about new gamers on the Dutch medicinal market?
TE: As I’ve stated from day one, please permit rivals to enter the market, for this can end in extra high quality and decrease costs.

BB: What are Bedrocan’s plans for 2019 and past?
TE: Enlargement of capability, introduction of a vaporizer that has been permitted as a medical gadget, additional enlargement, and initiating extra medical analysis.

BB: For those who might give the Dutch well being minister one piece of recommendation on medical hashish, what wouldn’t it be?
TE: Comply with the present improvement of hashish as a drugs within the Netherlands and Europe, and separate it utterly from hashish as a leisure drug. By doing so, you do justice to the wants of each events — sufferers and leisure customers. We should always not comply with Canada and america, the place every thing is lumped collectively now. We’re already getting a whole lot of complaints from Canadian sufferers about rising costs, lack of availability of sure merchandise and a lower in high quality, now that medicinal producers have switched to manufacturing for the leisure market.