This is what the next round of cannabis legalization looks like in Europe

Until the end of 2021, the EU was a medical-only cannabis market. However, 2022 has seen a host of legislative revisions and promises to legalize recreational cannabis. Thanks to recent developments, it has become clear that there is still a lot to be done to standardize, stabilize and evolve the industry.


In December 2021, Luxembourg legalized the cultivation of cannabis for recreational purposes. A month earlier – November 2021 – Germany’s new coalition government promised to legalize recreational cannabis at the start of its term.

These, and some other news from different parts of the EU, give the impression that there is light at the end of the continent’s conservative tunnel. The first wave of cannabis legalization on the continent was for medical use, which took place between 2018 and 2021.

Various events postulate that a new wave of leisure-focused legalisations will come into force in 2022. The developments are worth excited about, and this article explores all the details European consumers need to be aware of.

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Expose on the Luxembourg legalization of cannabis

Luxembourg is one of the few countries whose recreational cannabis efforts are expected to create a domino effect in Europe. According to a report, residents over the age of 18 can grow a maximum of 4 plants for personal use. Users will also be allowed to carry approximately 3 grams of cannabis in public.

According to another version of the report, the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) component of cannabis will no longer be regulated. However, some public areas will remain restricted – cannabis use in these areas will result in fines.

This is a huge change for a country previously notorious for fining up to €2,500 for possession of cannabis.

Additionally, the new regulations decriminalize the production, sale and distribution of the substance to the public. The new development opens up a new government-controlled cannabis economy, which aims in part to solve the problem of drug-related crime in Luxembourg.

The international realities surrounding Luxembourg’s decision will be helped by the steps taken by the new German government to decriminalize recreational cannabis.

Focus on Germany

Medical cannabis has always been the norm in Germany. However, the new coalition government has promised citizens to ensure the legalization and regulation of the cannabis market in the country.

This announcement has since reflected a less politicization of the cannabis debate in European society. Many experts believe this will set a precedent for other countries on the continent.

Since the announcement of the decriminalization plan, many medical cannabis companies are positioning themselves to lead the country’s effort towards recreational cannabis. The coalition government has promised to keep its promise during the current mandate, but there is still no concrete roadmap to reality.

Beyond the 2020 draft bill proposing adult access to cannabis, there have been no new proposals relating to the government’s promise. However, over the past two months, there has been a series of closed-door expert testimony to lawmakers by the government. This is the first step towards legalizing the product, and it remains to be seen how the government will proceed.

A study posits that passing recreational cannabis reform in the country could add an estimated $5.3 billion to its tax revenue while creating more than 27,000 jobs. This national effect is on a larger scale than countries like Malta will experience, although it is at the forefront of introducing a modest playbook that other European countries may follow. .

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How Malta fits into the picture

Malta is the first country in the EU to legalize recreational cannabis. But the legislation was designed to limit potential disasters. Cannabis for personal use is decimalized on the island once it is not for sale. Thus, citizens can consume cannabis personally or in social clubs but cannot sell it.

From December 2021, the government allowed citizens to grow a maximum of six plants at home. Users are also allowed to carry 7 grams of the substance on them in public. The legislation also established a dedicated government authority. Finally, citizens can create social cannabis clubs.

Achieving this feat has not been easy, as the government has made its recreational cannabis intentions known since 2017. Five years later, the government has finally passed all four pillars of its Cannabis Reform Bill: cultivation, possession, consumption and association. .

Although the ‘association’ aspect of the bill is based directly on the Spanish social club model, it is a welcome development that further secures the place of recreational cannabis in European society.

Cannabis laws in Spain

Recreational cannabis is decriminalized in Spain for all purposes other than sale. You can grow, use, and even form cannabis social clubs. However, you cannot sell. The country allows citizens to hold up to 100 grams of cannabis in a private place. For context, Malta only allows up to 50 grams in homes.

A major aspect of the Spanish legalization of cannabis is the “social clubs”. Although these non-profit organizations were first established in 1991, their existence was only recently legalized. Once legalized, the social club model is replicated in other countries and is quickly becoming a regulated alternative to commercial recreational cannabis in Europe.

While the country has not rightly legalized recreational cannabis, it has decriminalized cultivation and personal use of the substance.

What is Portugal doing about recreational cannabis?

In 2018, Portugal legalized medical cannabis, which has since become a major playground for American and Canadian companies. These companies have ensured a steady influx of investment into the country’s cannabis market.

But despite being a leader on the European cannabis scene, the country struggles to regulate the market. Recent bids to structure and firmly control the market have seen the proposal of two cannabis-related bills in the country. These bills are designed to allow for personal consumption, cultivation and possession.

Unfortunately, these bills have lacked momentum due to government instability and the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reality in Italy

Recently there was a referendum to legalize the domestic cultivation of cannabis in Italy. The referendum will further decriminalize possession of the substance. This referendum comes after several failed attempts to legalize cannabis and aims to change the country’s narcotics law.

If the balloting process passes, citizens will be asked to vote for or against the referendum. According to the country’s prime minister, the coalition government will do nothing to block the cannabis referendum. There is no indication that the (right-wing) opposition party will oppose the referendum. Bill will be a victim of politics and the world can only wait to see how the game plays out.

Other countries taking positive action on recreational cannabis

Despite their problems, Canada and the United States are leaders in the legal cannabis market. Many European countries are pulling legislative weight to avoid being left behind. Although medical marijuana is licensed in most countries on the continent, the market is still dominated by foreign companies. If local businesses have a chance to grow, it’s important to give recreational cannabis a nod.

For the Netherlands, the first step towards recreational cannabis is to experiment. The country has already begun experimentation by supplying the substance to cafes, with a system designed to monitor the effects.

For France, there is still a long way to go. Regulations around medical cannabis remain limited. However, as part of an effort to better understand the market, the country has proposed a two-year experimental pilot program where it provides approximately 3,000 patients with medical cannabis.

Impact of the new wave of recreational cannabis legislation

Currently, the regulatory and functional sphere of cannabis in Europe remains fragmented, as in North America. However, the continent remains slightly behind its western counterpart. But if governments play their cards right, it won’t be long before the continent becomes a force to be reckoned with in the cannabis market.

Much of Europe Cannabis is built on the illegal trade, even for medical cannabis. Reports indicate that €354 million worth of illegal medical cannabis is expected to be traded in the European market in 2022. The report further predicts that this figure will reach around €2.3 billion in 2026. But with the scaling up of efforts legislative, things should start to improve. on the legal side.

According to experts, the new wave of legislation on the continent will lead to more investments, mergers and acquisitions. In an interview with TechCrunch, Todd Harrison said, “We believe mergers and acquisitions will be on the mind of every legal cannabis operator. The difference in Europe is that there is an opportunity for non-cannabis players to potentially get strategic and try to break into the market. through the integration of cannabis as a CPG (consumer good) or pharmaceutical-grade option.”

From Todd’s statement, it can be inferred that European industry experts are predicting fierce competition in the coming years, and that’s all good news. Competition is good for the rapid maturation of any nascent market.

Additionally, trade laws within the EU are also expected to facilitate market growth once countries legalize recreational cannabis again. According to David Bonnier, founding partner of Enexis AB, “you can produce cannabis, for example, in Portugal, and sell in any EU country as long as you have export/import licenses. Therefore , since cross-border European trade is relatively fluid, businesses can scale relatively quickly if they know what they are doing.”

Mary I. Bruner