Applying for dispensation from the Opium Act

Published by:
Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO
Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO

You are not allowed to have drugs which are banned under the Dutch Opium Act (Opiumwet) on your business premises. Furthermore, you are not allowed to prepare, treat, process, sell, supply, provide, or transport these substances. You can only do so when you have dispensation from the Opium Act. It concerns:

Requesting dispensation

You can apply for dispensation from the opium act to Farmatec (in Dutch). You can request dispensation for the use of narcotics for:

  • public health
  • animal health
  • scientific (academic) or analytical chemical research
  • instructive purposes (such as training sniffer dogs)
  • trade-related purposes (food additives)

Dispensation is valid for at most 5 years. Besides an application fee, you need to pay a yearly fee for your dispensation. To renew your dispensation, you must re-apply 3 months before your dispensation expires. You need to submit your request for renewal combined with an additional form (in Dutch) and any relevant changes to your business operation.

No dispensation needed

In some cases you do not need to request dispensation:

  • if you are a physician, pharmacist, GP surgery dispensary, or a hospital and you meet certain conditions (in Dutch)
  • if you are an institution or person designated by the government
  • if you are an institution that keeps drugs in stock to practice medicine, dentistry or for your own medicinal use.

Medicinal cannabis

Pharmacists and research institutions, such as universities and hospitals, that need legal medicinal cannabis can apply to the Dutch Office for Medicinal Cannabis (Bureau voor Medicinale Cannabis, OMC).

Dispensation for growing hemp

You also need dispensation from the opium act for the growing and preparation of hemp. For instance, if you want to do scientific research on the medicinal effects of hemp or for the production of medicines. If you do not have dispensation, such activities are a criminal offence.

Import and export

Import and export by pharmaceutical companies is also only allowed with a dispensation. You can obtain this dispensation from Farmatec, which is part of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS).

This dispensation is valid for 13 months. You should complete your import and export activities within this period or you must apply for dispensation anew. In certain cases you can apply for a 6-months dispensation, for instance when exporting from the United States, India or China.

Import and export of hemp

If you want import or export hemp (cannabis), hashish, hemp oil, or preparations thereof, you should apply for dispensation to the OMC.


The Dutch Health and Youth Care Inspectorate (Inspectie Gezondheidszorg en Jeugd, IGJ) supervises companies and institutions that have a dispensation from the opium act. They check for instance if your administration is in order and if the security measures for these products are tight enough. The inspectorate also advises Farmatec and the OMC on applications for dispensation.