The legal status of cannabis “varies wildly across the globe,” and while in some countries it may be subject to strict regulations, in others it is still fully banned. Canada legalized the substance for recreational use in 2018, while Uruguay had already done so five years earlier. An article on Drug Policy Reform Foundation Transform, discussed the situation in Europe.
In Switzerland, a country renowned for a long history of pioneering drug policy, two national referendums on cannabis legalization have taken place so far. As a result, sales of CBD have been allowed for some years, and cannabis for personal possession was decriminalized in 2012. Moreover, Switzerland may become the first European nation to fully legalize cannabis production for non-medical adult use.
Moving away from medical-use only
On the other hand, Luxembourg was the first European country to set in motion such reforms, by announcing a plan to legalize and regulate cannabis production and sale for non-medical adult use in 2018. These plans were put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, it was recently announced that the policy change is “ongoing” and that “intensive” exchanges between the ministries had taken place, so that the project is “completed” and “optimised”.
Media reports of the draft plans have revealed that retail access would be limited to adult Luxembourg residents, with only 14 retail outlets serving the country. Bans on advertising, internet sales and home deliveries, would accompany the measures.
Malta, has taken a somewhat different path to the formal markets being developed in Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland. However, a Government white paper published last March includes proposals to extend decriminalization of cannabis possession, expunge criminal records, and permit home growing of up to four plants per household.
Embracing “recreational use”
Meanwhile, despite being renowned for having ‘coffee shops’ licensed to allow cannabis consumption since the 1970s, cannabis had never actually been legalized in the Netherlands. Finally in 2017, a national plan passed by parliament to license the production of cannabis, at least on a limited trial basis, in order to supply the local coffee shops.
In France, a group of MPs from a committee of the National Assembly, have called for cannabis to be legalized and regulated for non-medical adult, in a recent report. The document was compiled following a year long consultation process and concluded that legalization would ‘take back control’ from traffickers and protect young people.
Regulatory changes across the globe
Reform is also progressing beyond North America and Europe. The Australian Capital Territory (decriminalisation and home growing); South Africa (decriminalisation and home growing); a number of Caribbean states (mostly for religious and medical use); some Asian countries mainly for medicinal purposes, and Israel (fully regulated market).