The Dutch government selected the first marijuana growers in Europe who will be legally authorized to cultivate the plant for commercial purposes as part of a pilot program.

The Dutch Health and Justice ministers made the announcement in a letter to the country’s parliament.

The 10 successful applicants out of a pool of 147 growers who supply some of the country’s infamous ‘coffee shops’ – where marijuana sales are tolerated but cultivation prohibited – must now pass background checks before the Closed Coffeshop Chain Experiment (CCCE) launches in February 2021.

To be considered for the CCCE, applicants had to detail how they would grow the required amount of cannabis, where they would grow it and what safety measures they would have in place.

The pilot program is being administered by the Ministry of Health in the Netherlands. The 147 applicants to the CCCE were assessed in a number of areas, such as growing capacity and professional standards. 51 growers passed this stage of the assessment, with the final ten selected through a random draw. If any of the final ten participants fail the background checks, they will be replaced by one of the 40 or so growers on a reserve list.

The ten growers will supply around 80 coffee shops across ten municipalities, though the cultivation sites are yet to be revealed and do not necessarily need to be in the jurisdiction of where the cannabis will be sold.

Accompanying the announcement, the Justice and Health Ministries published a substantial outline of the plan (link in Dutch) to allay fears and answer the most pertinent questions.

The Dutch government’s overtures to bring the Netherlands’ shadowy cannabis industry out into the open comes at a time when the mayor of Amsterdam, as well as some its residents, are looking at restricting cannabis sales to tourists to promote public order and combat mass-tourism. It also follows many European Union countries, including the Netherlands, voting to reschedule marijuana to a less restrictive category under international law.