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Will Slovenia Be the Next European Country to Legalize Cannabis?

PHOTO Krivec Ales


Will Slovenia Be the Next European Country to Legalize Cannabis?

A June 9 national vote in Slovenia will give citizens the chance to approve referendums on medical cannabis as well as personal cultivation and possession. However, even if approved, it’s still possible that Slovenia’s governing coalition will not adopt them. Educating voters leading up to the election will prove critical.

Slovenia’s largest party of the current ruling coalition, the Freedom Movement, was successful in its effort to place consulting referendums related to medical and non-medical cannabis on the ballot in Slovenia’s next election. Slovenia’s voters will decide on a medical cannabis referendum question and a “cultivation and possession of cannabis for limited personal use” question on June 9. The referendum votes will occur alongside the vote for the European Parliament.

Initially, advocates in Slovenia’s National Assembly proposed that the referendum question inquire about support for the cultivation, processing, sale and use of cannabis for medical purposes. The effort eventually evolved to become two separate referendum questions.

The upcoming vote in Slovenia will mark the first major European cannabis policy vote after Germany’s new adult-use legalization law took effect. As of April 1, 2024, adults in Germany can cultivate, possess and consume cannabis for recreational purposes. German citizens 18 years of age and older can cultivate up to three plants in their private residences and possess up to 25 grams when away from their homes.

Additionally, cannabis clones and seeds are now permitted to be sold commercially in Germany and cannabis is no longer listed on the nation’s Narcotics List. Social cannabis clubs are expected to launch in July, and regional adult-use cannabis commerce pilot trials should launch by the end of the year. Germany’s legalization model serves as a blueprint for how to legalize cannabis in the European Union and has increased momentum for reform efforts in other European countries, including Slovenia.

Unknowns Loom, Even If Voters Check ‘Yes’

It’s worth noting that the referendum questions in Slovenia are not legally binding, and even if the votes prove to be successful, it’s still possible that Slovenia’s governing coalition will not adopt them. However, approval of one or both referendum questions, particularly approval by a wide margin, would put considerable political pressure on Slovenia’s lawmakers to respect the will of the nation’s voters.

Cannabis opponents have increased their efforts to spread incomplete information, and in some cases, outright misleading information in Slovenia leading up to the June 9 vote. An example can be found in a recent article published by Slovenia’s National Institute of Public Health in which the entity expresses opposition to cannabis use and reform in general, but doesn’t specifically call out the upcoming referendum votes. The archaic talking points offered up by the Institute, which do not take into account legalization’s successful implementation in multiple European nations, are easily refuted.

Currently, recreational cannabis is prohibited in Slovenia and medical cannabis is permitted in limited circumstances involving pharmaceutical forms of cannabis such as Sativex and Marinol. Consumers caught with a personal amount of cannabis are subjected to fines, with leniency for offenders willing to go through behavioral rehabilitation programs. People charged with manufacturing or distributing cannabis can receive significant prison sentences.

Slovenia’s Hemp Laws

Hemp production is allowed in Slovenia, like in other European Union member nations. Products derived from hemp, including CBD products, are popular in Slovenia, although they are produced and sold in an area of public policy that’s somewhat conflicting. CBD products are classified as a “novel food” according to the EU, yet sufficient rules and regulations pertaining to CBD products have remained elusive. The related unanswered legal questions surrounding Slovenia’s CBD industry are not unique, with every other EU member nation grappling with the same regulatory limitations.

Per an analysis conducted by Marihuana Marš, Študentska Organizacija Univerze v Ljubljani and published in November 2023, Slovenia is home to over 200,000 cannabis consumers out of a total population that is roughly 2.2 million people. The same researchers determined that roughly 2,000 criminal offenses involving cannabis occur every year in Slovenia.

Spreading Voter Awareness

Cannabis supporters in Slovenia are encouraged to get involved in spreading education and awareness about the upcoming June 9 vote. Cannabis opponents are already trying to confuse voters in Slovenia, and it’s up to the cannabis community to spread the truth about what happens when European nations modernize their cannabis policies.

Malta, Luxembourg and Germany have all adopted cannabis policies that allow adults to cultivate, possess and consume cannabis for recreational purposes. Regional adult-use cannabis pilot trials are currently operating in several cities in the Netherlands and Switzerland. Slovenia doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel. Rather, the Central European nation needs to adopt policies that are already succeeding in other parts of Europe and are already established as being in line with European Union agreements.

Cannabis supporters and aspiring industry members in the Slovenia region are also encouraged to attend the upcoming International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) event in Bled, Slovenia on September 13, 2024. This will be the second installment of ICBC’s international science and technology conference in Bled. Last year’s  event made history by featuring Dr. Metka Paragi, the current Secretary for Health of the Slovenian Prime Minister’s cabinet. It marked the first-ever presentation at an international cannabis conference by a current officeholder at that level of government.

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