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Has Europe’s Cannabis Movement Hit a Tipping Point?

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Has Europe’s Cannabis Movement Hit a Tipping Point?

As German cannabis legalization inevitably succeeds, it will provide a major boost to the rest of Europe’s outlook on cannabis reform.

The history of Europe’s cannabis reform movement will forever be measured by adult-use legalization in Germany. Germany, which implemented the first provisions of its new adult-use cannabis law on April 1 , will never hold the title of being the first to legalize cannabis nationwide on the European continent. However, German legalization is undeniably the most significant cannabis reform victory in Europe’s history, and possibly the world.

Adults in Germany can now possess up to 25 grams when away from their homes, and the domestic medical cannabis industry is more streamlined than ever thanks to the removal of cannabis from Germany’s Narcotics list. Declassifying cannabis is a major component of Germany’s CanG law.

Additionally, adults can cultivate up to three plants in their private residences in Germany, and according to a recent survey by Pronova BKK, 51% selected “Yes, I can imagine having my own cannabis to grow at home” when asked about home cultivation. Another 40% of “occasional” cannabis consumers also selected that option in the survey. A separate survey by YouGov found that 7% of surveyed German adults have already purchased cannabis seeds or clones, and another 11% reported that they will in the future.

Time to Modernize

When the doomsday scenarios that cannabis opponents inside and outside of Germany have predicted fail to materialize, and German legalization inevitably succeeds, it will provide a major boost to Europe’s cannabis movement. Cannabis advocates across the continent will be able to point to Germany as proof that recreational cannabis policy modernization works and be in a better position to advocate for their own countries to do the same.

A recent example of this concept can be found in Slovenia where voters recently approved two referendum measures, both of which contained policy components that are already implemented in Germany. One referendum measure asked Slovenian voters if personal use and cultivation by adults should be legalized. The other referendum measure asked voters if Slovenia should permit domestic medical cannabis production. The approval of both measures, while not binding, sends a resounding message to lawmakers in Slovenia that it’s time for the Central European country to follow Germany’s lead and modernize its own policies.

In Czechia, lawmakers have long stated that the country plans to follow in Germany’s footsteps. While adult-use legalization isn’t necessarily imminent in Czechia, national anti-drug coordinator Jindřich Vobořil re-confirmed in a recent email to European media that “a final decision is still pending and that all options are conceivable.”

Smaller policy modernization victories are piling up elsewhere in Europe, with the Netherlands serving as a great example. The Netherlands recently expanded its regional adult-use cannabis commerce pilot projects to eight more municipalities.

Pilot Programs

Regional adult-use cannabis commerce pilot projects are also underway in several Switzerland municipalities and pilot projects will eventually serve as a key component in Germany’s legalization model. Pilot programs are expected to launch in Germany by the end of the year and are likely to be more widespread compared to the Netherlands and Switzerland. Successful pilot projects in all three nations will collectively encourage more European nations to launch their own pilots.

Regressive Policies in Japan and Thailand

Increasing momentum for policy modernization in Europe comes at the same time that countries in Asia are proposing regressive cannabis policies. Japan is set to enact a policy that punishes cannabis consumers for simply having THC in their system. THC use in Japan will become punishable by up to 7 years in prison by the end of this year. In Thailand, lawmakers are planning to re-criminalize cannabis after having decriminalized it in 2022. Cannabis policy modernization efforts succeeding in Europe provides a vital contrast to what is going on in Japan and Thailand, demonstrating that modernized policies yield better public health outcomes than prohibition.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) compiles reported cannabis usage data from most European nations and publishes findings in an annual report. EMCDDA recently published its report for 2024, and found that 8% of European adults (over 22 million people) have consumed cannabis at least once in the last year. A vast majority of those consumers presumably used unregulated products given how many European countries still prohibit cannabis commerce. People are going to consume cannabis in Europe whether it is legal or not, and transitioning those customers from the unregulated market to a regulated market is a more sensible public policy approach compared to prohibition.

The International Cannabis Business Conference is hosting several conferences and forums in 2024 and 2025 on the European continent, including the upcoming International Cannabis Business Conference’s event in Slovenia on September 13. The September conference marks the first major cannabis event in Slovenia after the historic June votes and is dedicated to emerging science and technology.

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