The European continent is in the midst of a cannabis policy revolution. For many years, medical cannabis reform was the ‘hot’ policy area for cannabis enthusiasts and observers, and rightfully so. However, things are really starting to heat up on the adult-use cannabis policy side of the equation as well, with a handful of countries exploring such reforms.
Germany recently made international headlines when the incoming governing coalition announced plans to legalize cannabis for adult use and to launch a regulated recreational cannabis industry. Other countries such as Luxembourg and Malta have also made legalization announcements, although the policy changes differ and appear to be more limited compared to what is being proposed in Germany, at least from an industry standpoint. The differences in proposed policies across Europe have a lot of people wondering what constitutes actual adult-use legalization?
Is There Already Legalization In Europe?
In many people’s minds, no country has legalized cannabis for adult use in Europe. However, there are forms of legalization already in place, at least in some nuanced ways. One of the most notable is in Switzerland, where low-THC cannabis products have been sold legally since 2017. Cannabis products that contain less than 1% THC are sold all over the country and are very popular.
Another notable example of semi-legalization can be found in Italy, where the country’s highest court (no pun intended) ruled in late 2019 that ‘small scale’ cultivation for personal use is legal. While the court’s ruling provided some legal protections for cultivators, it left many unknowns, including the limits to ‘small scale’ cultivation. Until lawmakers pass a legalization measure, there will always be confusion regarding what is legal and what is not in Italy.
Another legalization trend that is ramping up in Europe is adult-use cannabis pilot programs. Countries like the Netherlands and Switzerland are allowing limited adult-use policies to occur in select cities with the goal of gathering research and insight for crafting nationwide adult-use cannabis laws and regulations. For people that live in those areas, cannabis legalization is basically a reality. However, it’s still not considered to be full legalization since it’s not permanent or nationwide.
Who Will Be First To Legalize In Europe?
With news that lawmakers in Germany, Luxembourg, and Malta are close to legalizing cannabis for adult use in some fashion, there’s a lot of debate about who will be first to legalize in Europe. However, as discussed in this article, it’s still unclear what truly constitutes legalization. For instance, in Luxembourg, plans for legalization have been parred back to no longer include regulated adult-use sales. Legalization in Malta is expected to take on a similar form.
On the other hand, Germany has plans to create a robust, regulated adult-use industry. If/when that proves to be the case, Germany’s legalization model will likely be far superior compared to Malta and Luxembourg, assuming those nations only allow cannabis legalization for personal cultivation and use. Conversely, if Germany does not allow home cultivation, some in the cannabis community consider that not to be true legalization either. Ultimately, what constitutes legalization in Europe is in the eye of the beholder, yet one thing is clear – all forms of legalization are better than cannabis prohibition, which has ruined countless lives on the European continent for far too many years.
Johnny Green is the Media and Content Director for the International Cannabis Business Conference. Upcoming conferences include Barcelona (March 10th), Berlin (July 19-20th), and Zurich (September 8-9).