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Cannabis in Europe – Where is Cannabis Legal?

Marijuana is just as popular in Europe as in the rest of the world. Studies into marijuana use in Europe show that as many as 1 in 8 young Europeans used pot in the past year, and an estimated 1% of the population are regular users.

Although the European Union (EU) has made many European laws more uniform, this does not apply to the laws on cannabis. These rules can be very different from one country to the next, even in places which are geographically and culturally close

So where is cannabis legal throughout Europe, and where is it best to just say no? Let’s take a closer look at what countries are embracing the green scene and to what degree.

Countries in Europe Given the Greenlight for Medical Cannabis Only

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Like many states in the United States, several countries in Europe have only legalized cannabis and sometimes just specific cannabis-derived products for medical use only. Let’s take a closer look at some of these medical programs.

Denmark

A four-year pilot program that offers patients access to legal, medical cannabis launched in January of 2018. As of April 2019, there were over 2,000 patients registered. According to MJBizDaily, “the country’s business-friendly, patient-centric medical cannabis scheme is one of the most ironed-out systems in Europe.”

Finland

Cannabis for medical purposes has been legal in the country since 2008. However, all cases for approval are on a case by case basis, and very few patients have been approved for access to the minimal products offered in the program.

Germany

Since 2017, patients that have been diagnosed with a severe illness that has been untreatable by all other treatment methods and who has received a recommendation from a doctor can utilize cannabis for medical purposes. Cannabis and cannabis-derived products must be purchased from pharmacies.

Although unauthorized possession, supply, and cultivation are still against the law, you may not be prosecuted if you get caught with a small amount of cannabis for personal use. So what constitutes as a small amount? That all depends on which state you are in and can vary between 6g and 15g.

Greece

Medical cannabis was legalized in Greece back in 2017. However, as of April 2019, no businesses had successfully received all three licenses required to do business in the country. Therefore the program is not yet operational. However, there are high hopes that it will be in full swing by April 2020.

In addition, these countries have also legalized the use of cannabis and cannabis-derived products to some degree for patients within their borders.

  • Cyprus
  • Ireland
  • Lithuania
  • North Macedonia
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Romania
  • San Marino
  • Turkey

Where Cannabis is Medically Legal, Decriminalized, or Often Overlooked

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Like in the United States, several countries in Europe have legalized cannabis for medical purposes as well as reformed their laws surrounding cannabis for personal retail use. Let’s take a look at a few of these countries where cannabis has been decriminalized for more than just medical purposes.

France

In June of 2013, the manufacturing of medicinal products from cannabis derivatives was legalized in the country. The products are only obtainable by patients that have received a recommendation for use and have exhausted all other treatment options. The National Medical Safety Agency must approve any cannabis-derived products.

As of November of 2018, the penalty for possessing cannabis without the proper doctor recommendation was reduced from a criminal charge to a 200 euro fine.

Italy

In late 2014, the Italian Army began growing cannabis at a military facility in Florence, and the production of medical cannabis increased over the next few years. Patients in the country can receive a recommendation to utilize medical cannabis for a handful of specific ailments and conditions. These include chronic pain, Glaucoma, nausea, and vomiting associated with cancer treatments, appetite stimulation for cachexia, anorexia, cancer, and AIDS patients, and treating involuntary movements in patients affected by Tourette syndrome.

Nonmedical use of cannabis is also decriminalized for products containing less than .6% THC and for religious use. However, the penalty for personal use and small possession is typically a fine rather than criminal charges in most cases. Recently, Italy legalized cultivation for personal use only.

Netherlands

In 2003, legal, medical cannabis product by the name “Mediwiet” has been available by prescription. There are currently five cannabis products approved for medical use in the country by authorized patients. One, however, is mainly a CBD product with very little to no THC content.

Since 1972, when the Dutch government classified cannabis as a less-dangerous drug, the possession of 30 grams or less has been considered a misdemeanor. The possession of fewer than 5 grams is deemed personal use and is decriminalized. Since 1976, Dutch coffee shops have sold cannabis and cannabis-infused products for recreational consumption.

Long known as the place for weed — not just in Europe, but the world over — Amsterdam is still considered a stoner’s paradise despite some tightening of rules and regulations in recent years. In Amsterdam, you’ll find countless coffee shops where you can both purchase and consume your weed.

Spain

In 2015, a law was enacted in Spain that decriminalized consuming cannabis in private spaces. This means that as long as you have a small amount and only consume in private, it is completely legal in the country. Residents can also grow a small number of plants as long as they remain out of sight of the public and are produced in private spaces. However, selling or trafficking the plant is a severe penalty for all offenders. Public cannabis consumption is considered a “serious order offense” and could lead to a hefty fine of between 601 and 30,000 Euros.

However, private marijuana use and cultivation in a private space is legal, and the possession of small amounts generally goes unpunished.

Another law decriminalizing “closed circle” use has led to the formation of cannabis social clubs, which allow weed to be grown and distributed to members without commercializing its use. These social clubs are a legal gray area though, and anyone found guilty of supplying cannabis could well end up with prison time.

With that being said, medical cannabis is only currently legal in one district, and that is Catalonia. Here the program which launched in 2005 consists of 6 hospitals, 40 researchers, 60 drugstores, and just 600 patients. Medical cannabis products, however, are high in CBD and are not allowed to contain any THC.

If you’re planning a trip to Barcelona in early March, be sure to check out Spannabis, the biggest annual cannabis exhibition in Europe. Just one more reason why Barcelona is fast becoming the top dope destination in Europe!

Switzerland

Medical cannabis is legal in the country. However, only one product has been licensed for sale, and that is Sativex. A doctor must authorize all patients wishing to utilize Sativex before being able to purchase, possess, or use the product.

The punishment for illegal consumption is a fine of up to 100 Swiss Francs. However, you are unlikely to face prosecution for cannabis unless you have more than 10g in your possession.

In 2017, the federal court addressed this punishment and concluded that the possession of cannabis is legal and that only the consumption of cannabis is a fineable offense.

Portugal

Another country with relatively liberal drug laws is Portugal. Here, all narcotics including cannabis are decriminalized, and rehabilitation is preferable to prosecution in most cases. Those caught with small amounts of marijuana may have to face a “commission for dissuasion of drug addiction,” a panel made up of three members of the legal, medical, and social care professions. There may also be a fine for repeat offenders.

Despite this more relaxed law on cannabis consumption in Portugal, cultivation is completely illegal and could be punishable by imprisonment.

In addition, these countries have also legalized the use of cannabis and cannabis-derived products to some degree for patients within their borders.

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Croatia
  • Estonia
  • Georgia
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Moldova
  • Slovenia

No Tolerance for Cannabis

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As for the other 21 countries in Europe, it is still highly illegal to utilize, purchase, possess, or distribute cannabis for any reason or purpose. This includes within the borders of Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Iceland, Kosovo, Monaco, Russia, Serbia, Sweden, Ukraine, and Vatican City.

Marijuana laws in Europe are set by each government and can be very different from place to place. Add into the mix the fact that medical marijuana is legal in some countries but not others, and you have a very confusing set of laws.

Although there are many countries in Europe where cannabis use is tolerated, it is still technically illegal across most of the continent. The truth is that, in most places, police time and money are considered better spent elsewhere, and so many minor cannabis crimes go unpunished.

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