Monday April 4, 2022
By Erin Hiatt
Imagine, if you will, a post-COVID world where you can dust off your passport and travel to your preferred European destination without worry - Paris, London, Barcelona, Rome - to people watch, shoo pigeons away from the statuary, and kick back with a big fat joint that you buy from a local, legal purveyor.
“What about Amsterdam!?” your brain might be shouting. Not to be the bearer of bad news, but not so fast. “Everyone I know has bought weed in Amsterdam!” Yes, it’s true - you can buy weed in Amsterdam, but it’s not exactly legal. It’s more accurate to describe cannabis in the Netherlands as an industry essentially ignored by law enforcement, as Dutch policymakers long ago decided to focus their drug policy and enforcement on “hard drugs” like heroin.
Amsterdam is only one example of marijuana policy in Europe. Much like the U.S., cannabis law is specific to a country or even a city. So, what’s going on? Is marijuana legal in Europe? Let’s dig in!
Cannabis Legalization Status Within European Countries
Last October, Germany’s new government got advocates and consumers buzzing (so to speak) by announcing that they intended to make cannabis legal in Germany within the next two years.
Though no legal adult-use cannabis laws yet exist, some companies are already setting up shop in anticipation of a legal market. Currently, medical marijuana is legal in Germany and consumption is largely decriminalized.
Most of Europe follows the German model, where medical marijuana is legal and its consumption and possession (within reason) decriminalized. Britain, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, and Denmark are among the countries that follow this pattern. There are a few holdouts like Bulgaria, Kosovo, Serbia, Slovakia, Hungary, and Montenegro where cannabis remains completely illegal and criminalized.
Then there are some like France, Austria, and Belgium that settle in between the two by allowing for some medical marijuana treatments like Sativex, a cannabis-derived medicine intended to be used for the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis.
Is there Legal Cannabis in Europe?
If you’re looking for a European country where weed is legal, you’ll have to head to Malta, a tiny island in the Mediterranean 50 miles south of Italy. Last December, Marijuana Moment reported, “Just days after Malta’s Parliament approved a bill to legalize marijuana, President George Vella signed the legislation into law,” making Malta the first European country to legalize weed.
However, Malta won’t have a legal recreational market like those in U.S. markets like California, Colorado, Nevada, or Washington. In Malta, adults 18 and older can possess up to seven grams of cannabis and cultivate up to four plants, and residents can participate in the legal market by joining nonprofit co-ops that can grow and distribute to members.
The Malta model will be familiar if you happen to be a cannabis consumer in Barcelona, Spain. Though adult-use weed remains illegal in the country, members of Barcelona cannabis clubs can purchase cannabis at specific locations, though only Spanish citizens are allowed to become members. Also, Italy itself has made progressive movement on legalization, where it was recently ruled that small-scale personal cultivation is not against the law. However, possession itself is only decriminalized.
If German lawmakers follow-through on their promise to legalize adult-use cannabis in the next couple of years, will other European countries follow suit? Sans reliable tea leaves, it’s hard to predict. We do know that Europeans like cannabis a lot, especially in France, Spain, and Italy, where about 11 percent of people consume the herb. But whether that enthusiasm will translate into legal markets is up in the air.
If travel abroad is in your future, we strongly recommend investigating local weed laws before trying to obtain, possess or consume cannabis while visiting any foreign country.
Share your own cannabis experiences when you traveled abroad in the comments below!
Photo Credit: Shutterstock