For the first time in history, authorities in two Dutch cities have initiated a trial allowing cannabis users to smoke legally, potentially leading to complete legalization of marijuana in the country. Health Minister, Ernst Kuipers, inaugurated the landmark event at Baron coffee shop in Breda on Friday. Despite popular international belief, cannabis is not entirely legal in the Netherlands, a country known for its coffee shops and appeal to cannabis enthusiasts. The drug, in reality, operates within a legal grey zone, a predicament the government aims to resolve through this four-year trial in Breda and neighboring Tilburg.

While the use of small quantities of cannabis is technically illegal, the long-standing "tolerance" policy from the 1970s means the law is typically not enforced. Nonetheless, the production and supply of cannabis to coffee shops remain illegal and untolerated, forcing producers and shop owners into the periphery. This precarious situation has led to an increase in gang-related activities, petty crime, and social disruptions, which authorities hope to curb if the trial proves successful.

The Mayor of Breda, Paul Depla, expressed his concerns about the criminal organizations that control the cannabis market, stating that it's time to sever the dependency of coffee shop owners on these illicit operations. Under the trial, a select number of farms will legally produce cannabis, which will be rigorously monitored before reaching the coffee shops.

Consumers can expect a high-quality product with a known origin, unlike the past where the source and purity of the cannabis were uncertain. Ashwin Matai, cultivation director at Holland High farm, assured that their cannabis would be "clean, tested, and pesticide-free," starting from February.

The trial will allow for the measurement of THC and CBD levels, the active compounds in cannabis, providing users with insights into the potency of their product. According to Kuipers, this trial also gives public health officials the ability to oversee the process and check for potential contamination, an aspect previously unattainable.

Independent researchers will monitor the trial, looking at the possibility of full decriminalization. However, Depla was careful about suggesting that this could lead to the legalization of other drugs, stating the focus should remain on cannabis for now.

Uncertainty looms over the initiative due to Geert Wilders and his far-right Party for Freedom, which won 37 seats in the recent general election. The party opposes the tolerance policy and is pushing for a "drug-free Netherlands".