Cannabis legislation is changing around the world. More countries than ever are choosing to legalise cannabis. In the US, for instance, 19 states have now made adult and medical use legal. In 2018, Canada became the first country to legalise and regulate the non-medical use of cannabis. Uruguay legalised cannabis about five years later.
The world’s view of cannabis is changing, and soon we’ll be able to travel from the Arctic Circle to South America without traveling through a region where cannabis is illegal.
The world continues to change in 2022. It’s not only in North America that changes and reforms are taking place right now. We’ve put together a list of countries where reforms are in motion, with EU countries racing to be the first to legalise cannabis in Europe.
Malta has been on a journey to decriminalise cannabis. A Government white paper published in March 2021 includes proposals to extend decriminalisation of cannabis possession, erasing criminal records, and allowing the home growing of up to four plants per household.
The white paper follows a government-convened 2017 technical committee report, which involved extensive research and consultations. The paper is the foundation of the national consultation that will guide the country’s next steps. What’s clear is the government is interested in reform. There are very good indications that the proposed reforms could lead to the legalisation of a regulated market in the near future.
Several French MPs have called for cannabis to be legalised and regulated for non-medical adult use. France has the highest levels of cannabis use in Europe; however, the country also has one of the strictest drug regulations. The legalisation of cannabis is quite difficult in France.
A report by a committee of the National Assembly offers an overview of the challenges of France’s drug enforcement methods. In the end, the report concludes that legislation of cannabis would remove control from the traffickers and protect the country’s youth.
However, the report does show changes in the national discussion on cannabis legalisation. These are in line with changes taking place across continental Europe.
In September 2020, the Swiss parliament amended the federal drug law to allow for local trials of legal production and sale of cannabis for recreational use. The goal was to create a “scientific basis for the future regulation of cannabis.” Each pilot can include up to 5,000 adult participants. They will each have access to a specific amount of cannabis (a 20% THC potency cap).
Different Swiss Cantons will develop their own unique trials. For instance, Zurich and Basel have created unique proposals. On the other hand, Geneva is taking a more modest route to its proposal, which involves a cannabis social club experiment.
However, there’s another initiative to legalise access for adults to non-medical cannabis on a broader basis, which is also moving forward.
Depending on how the Netherlands develops its cannabis legalisation, Switzerland looks like it’s on the way to being the first European country to legalise cannabis production for non-medical adult use completely.
The Swiss have long had a history of developing a groundbreaking drug policy. These policies have led to the legalisation of sales of high CBD (less than 1% THC) for a few years and the decriminalisation of cannabis for personal possession in 2012.
While cannabis in Dutch shops has been allowed since the 1970s, they have been in an unusual legal position. Coffee shop sales are legal, yet cannabis has never been legalised. The sales, possession, and use come under a formal tolerance policy. Coffee shops are supplied by an illegal market that comes with a host of problems. These include lack of regulation, ties to organised crime, and more. This entire situation has been referred to as the “Dutch back door paradox.”
Many have tried to resolve the Dutch policies; however, the situation was finally led to a national plan to license the production of cannabis. The plan is based on a limited trial and will supply coffee shops.
The legislation is called “The Closed Coffeeshop Circuit Act” and would allow for commercial cannabis growers to operate under rigorous conditions. They would be exempt from prosecution. The proposal was adopted by a narrow majority; however, the debates continue on the details. Currently, there are 10 provisional production licenses being issued.
Luxembourg’s coalition government, in 2018, created a new plan to legalise and regulate cannabis production and sales for non-medical adult use. They were the first European country to put such reforms in place. The youths of the country were the push behind the reforms.
In 2019, Health minister Etienne Schneider said the drug policy the country had for 50 years didn’t work. He said that making all drugs illegal only intensified the interest of the country’s youth. His hope was that the cannabis reforms would lead the country to a more open-minded attitude toward drugs.
The reform involved detailed plans that were to head to parliament in 2019. However, these were put on hold due to the pandemic. Even so, members of the government continued to support the drug reforms and gave the assurance that the policy was being completed and optimised.
Media reports indicated that draft plans proposed access would be limited to adult Luxembourg residents. In addition, only fourteen retail outlets would be allowed in the country. There would be a 30g per month purchase limit, with no limits on the levels of THC. However, taxation would be used to encourage the use of cannabis with lower potency. What’s more, there would be bans on advertising, Internet sales, and home deliveries.
As you can see, more European countries are beginning to legalise cannabis or at least are developing proposals that could make cannabis more available. The debate has progressed from if we regulate to how we regulate cannabis. That’s a huge step in the right direction.
Transformation continues, and that’s great news for many people around the world.
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