Rinus Beintema is on trial for making cannabis oil for the sick and he hopes they will punish him harshly.
It’s been a long and interesting road for cannabis advocate, Rinus Beintema. At the moment he is in pre-trial as the infamous ‘Robin Hood of Dutch Cannabis.’ But, less than a decade ago, Rinus completely doubted the medicinal qualities of cannabis. He was no stranger to the bud in his youth, but cannabis was just a recreational experience. Now Rinus has a long list of accolades (and trouble with the law) in his role as passionate medical cannabis advocate.
Rinus is about to face trial and he wants it to be loud. He is not afraid of what comes next and, frankly, relishes a harsh punishment that will outrage the masses and amplify the voice of legalization.
How Rinus Beintema Came to Believe in the Medicinal Power of Cannabis
Rinus is a former underground grower for Holland’s peculiar and divisive “back door” legal cannabis system. The turning point in Beintema’s medical cannabis education came through a friend of the family. An elderly acquaintance of his father requested some cannabis oil to treat arthritis. Rinus quickly whipped the oil up in his attic. Within a week, the man’s painful symptoms had eased and he was able to half his pharmaceutical medication.
The swiftness of the recovery “really opened my eyes,” Rinus Beintema told Leafly, in a 2016 interview. After seeing the impact the plant had on one patient, he wasted no time in starting a Facebook group promoting his help. From there, things really blew up. “Before I knew it, I was providing two hundred people with cannabis oil. And this was all still from my attic.”
Expanding Operations to Combat Over-Priced CBD Isolate
Transferring the quickly expanding operation from his attic to a more suitable venue was the next logical step. Rinus founded a cannabis social club in the Netherlands, in the northern province of Friesland. Suver Nuver — meaning “purely strange” — became a refuge for as many patients as Rinus could afford to serve.
Initially, the whole operation was to remain hidden due to the rigid legal framework around cannabis in the Netherlands. Holding a similar stance to the federal system in the U.S., Dutch law also classifies cannabis oil as an addictive drug with no medical value, alongside heroin and cocaine. While the non-intoxicating and ultra popular extract-based CBD oil is widely available in the Netherlands, full spectrum oil is still classified as such.
Unfortunately, legal producers work through exploitative channels. Their CBD products are wildly overpriced, with ten millilitre bottles costing between $57-200 USD (50-180 euros). This makes cannabis medicine cost-prohibitive for patients in Holland. It also compounds the reluctance of Dutch health insurance providers to cover cannabis as a medicine. This lack of coverage has prompted many to seek out cannabis oil from illegal sources. These economic pressures made Rinus’ democratic and compassionate club, Suver Nuver, the place to be.
The Suver Nuver Makes Something Out Of Nothing
Thanks to the club, Dutch cannabis patients can have medicine delivered to them for a symbolic fee of one euro per year. Membership is flexible, with more financially capable members paying around ten euros per month.
It’s a members-only space where good intentions and hope permeate every surface. How could it be anything else when it is the true lair of the Robin Hood of Dutch cannabis and his merry band of volunteers. It is here that Rinus takes business from the rich and greedy and gives it back to the people.
The Amsterdam native, who now lives in Sneek, receives free cannabis donations to Suver Nuver from underground growers. These are typically in the form of popcorn buds and trim, which are still perfectly suitable for making cannabis oil. Chefs at the club’s in-house lab, in Friesland, make these offerings into cannabis oil. Then volunteers complete the packaging, administrative tasks, and delivery.
Brushes With the Law
In the beginning, Rinus deliberately hid Suver Nuver in order to protect its medicine-making from authorities. Although the legal status of cannabis has not changed, the club has poked its head to the surface in defiance and with a mission to change the law. As a result, Rinus offers full transparency to an intrigued media in a bid to push for policy change. The decision to live in the public eye, however, has cost Rinus Beintema.
It’s true that local police have kept an eye on Suver Nuver since shortly after its inception. But, Rinus was not interrogated until 2018. That time the Dutch police didn’t arrest him. He believes his media presence may have partially influenced that decision. Probably more influential, Rinus insists there is a “mutual respect” between he and the authorities regarding the work he was doing.
Rinus Beintema’s Impending Trial
Despite no arrest again this time 52-year-old Rinus Beintema was recently served with a court summons. He is currently standing trial. The case is receiving full media coverage in Holland which is exactly how Rinus likes it. As raising awareness is key for him on this journey.
He is facing charges of committing a “Opium Law Class A offence and three counts of violating the Medicine Law.” Sentences for breaking the Opium Law can be as high as ten years in jail. While the breaking the “Medicine Law” as Beintema calls it can result in a five-year sentence. He violated the “Medicine Law” by spreading information about cannabis oil and its medicinal effects. While warning people about the dangers of driving on cannabis oil.
Rinus doesn’t deny making or distributing extracts and so admits to being “one hundred percent guilty.” However, he told Rxleaf that prosecutors allegedly said that the trial is about the consumption of cannabis extracts. And that they are not seeking a high sentence for him. The cannabis activist believes his best case scenario is “a guilty verdict with no punishment,” and of course lots of media attention.
RxLeaf Talks With Rinus Beintema
Now, with Rinus facing his biggest ordeal yet, a trial with possible jail time. His crime is that of helping sick people access illegal cannabis so that they can live and a life free from what ails them. RxLeaf had a chance to talk to this inspirational man with the unmistakable beard and ask him more about his upcoming trial and the uncertain future of Suver Nuver.
Rxleaf: So first off Rinus, tell us a bit about the trial
Rinus Beintema: Well, it’s all part of the project I’m doing. I have to go to court yes, but I have prepared well for this and it’s part of everything I’m aiming for. It doesn’t change much to be honest, just the atmosphere surrounding the issue. It hardcore prohibition here in Holland and this is what we need to tell the world. What used to be such a progressive country for cannabis is now getting worse and worse. I’m not worried though because it’s all part of my big plan to achieve legalization here at some point. Therefore I break a lot of laws but I [the consequences] up front.
Honestly, it’s a miracle they (the authorities) haven’t touched me for four and a half years while I am doing this all in the open. This is the interesting part and this is also why the Dutch newspapers have written about me a lot. They gave me the nickname “the Robin Hood of Dutch Cannabis.” It’s quite a funny name to be honest and we have some funny merchandise around that theme. I’m just using this name they call me as propaganda really. Yes, this situation could get ugly for me, but the harder they punish me, the bigger the news story will be. It’s like they say “all publicity is good publicity.”
If they take this direction, the hardcore prohibition route and I get harshly punished then it’s going to be big news everywhere. So let them, I don’t care.
Rxleaf: How close are you to achieving this goal of full legalization in the Netherlands?
Rinus: Well, obviously we are not very close because it’s still heavily prohibited. I have the court case on the 18th (November), and it’s a preliminary hearing where they are going to talk to my witnesses and the request of investigation for the trial to come. So, this is not the real deal yet but it’s the pre-trial. So, to answer your question, the goal is a distant dream.
Rxleaf: How many cannabis social club members are there now and how many do you hope to have moving forward into next year?
Rinus: Well, we have 20,148 members at this point and we are growing at about four to five hundred a month. So, yes this is continuously growing and if we are not stopped we hope to double our numbers by next year.
Rxleaf: In 2018 you talked about the possibility of getting Suver Nuver on the road, maybe travelling the Netherlands in a bus. Has this happened?
Rinus: Well, we’ve a lot of different ideas in place about how we should do that. We will put these into place as soon as they (the Dutch government) stop us doing what we are doing. A lot of ideas are already developed and parked until life gets difficult and they start to attack me. Then we will try and put these into action.
Rxleaf: What did you learn from attending the recent Cannabis Capital Convention in Amsterdam and did the event instil any hope in you that the Netherlands will achieve full legalization in the near future?
Rinus: That was an interesting day and I heard some interesting news from Nic Easley. He is a shareholder in a lot of legal cannabis companies in America. He showed us that the “green bubble” burst and big companies like Tilray, Aurora, and Canopy (Growth) lost big, big, big on market share and profits. That for me was good news as I don’t see that as the way to go forward.
On the other side, we had a lot of attention at the CCC about medicinal cannabis and that is what I really like. I also got approached by a lot of interested investors and other possibilities that we need to look into. Overall, it was quite a good convention, much better than last year where it was all about investments. Well, a year later you see a lot of these investments blew up so that subject wasn’t as high on the list this year.
Rxleaf: Is there much public opposition to the current “back door” system in the Netherlands?
Rinus: Well, it’s very clear, yesterday I did a reading for a city hall. I did an information night about medicinal cannabis. It was in a very religious part of Holland where they really oppose “coffeeshops” and medicinal cannabis. But it was very interesting to see that they were listening and asking a lot of questions about what could happen with medicinal cannabis. It’s much easier to talk about that than the recreational side of things. So, they are all obviously against this shady “back door” system. You have to buy from criminals and then sell it in the open. It’s a ridiculous system that’s been in place for forty years and we all want to get rid of it.
Rxleaf: If you achieve your goal and cannabis is finally fully legalized in the Netherlands, how will your role as a cannabis activist change?
Rinus: My role wouldn’t change really because I’m already all over Europe with this campaign. There is a lot of work to do over here. Cannabis prohibition is everywhere still. I opened my own medical cannabis consultancy business and I’m handing out information to governments all over Europe. I’m in Poland at the moment with a company and other places. And Germany is going to follow up very soon. It’s information centers that I open so it’s not the same thing as I do in Holland.
Obviously I don’t want to get locked up in Eastern European countries because that’s no joke. So, we are a bit more careful over there, but still doing the same work which is spreading the word about legalization. For me this is a good model to make money through while not burning myself at the same time, as I do in Holland. The Netherlands is where I do my hardcore activism because it’s my country and I feel like I need to change things in my country. In other countries I come to speak when they ask me. So, on the 29th of this month (November) it’s in Warsaw, Poland at a big convention.There will be a load of government people and doctors and professors. I think networking with the right people ensures good information goes out about cannabis legalization.