Recent events have illuminated the various attitudes that countries are taking toward this once-controversial plant in the ever-changing landscape of cannabis regulation across Europe. The attitude of cannabis is dynamically changing across Europe, from Portugal’s bold study of recreational usage to the Netherlands’ imminent legalisation pilot program and France’s unsure position on medical cannabis.
Portugal: step towards recreational cannabis
One of Portugal’s major political parties will create a working committee to examine the possibility of legalising cannabis for recreational use in a ground-breaking move. Eurico Brilhante Dias, the PS’s legislative leader, made this announcement at the party’s first gathering following the summer recess. Portugal, known for its forward-thinking drug legalisation laws, is now giving recreational cannabis more consideration.
Portugal’s decision to consider the future legalisation of recreational cannabis shows its dedication to evidence-based policies and the ongoing reform of its drug laws. The current decriminalisation of drugs in Portugal, which was put into effect in 2001, is praised around the world for its focus on harm reduction and treatment of drug addiction as a public health issue rather than a criminal violation. This policy change played a crucial role in the outstanding outcomes, which included a significant decrease in drug-related fatalities and a drop in total drug use, especially among young people.
The Netherlands’ legalisation pilot program
The experiment in cannabis legalisation is about to begin in the Netherlands. This country is a cannabis policy pioneer in Europe. The Wietexperiment, often known as the “Weed Experiment,” which was initially passed by the senate in 2019 is slated to permit a small number of producers to provide legal cannabis to coffee shops in ten locations around the nation. A letter to the Dutch parliament has announced that the pilot phase will begin on December 15, 2023. Breda and Tilburg will be setting the pace.
Some people believe that cannabis is already legal in the Netherlands. But it’s important to keep in mind that the nation has historically operated under a “gedoogbeleid“. That was a policy of tolerance toward “soft drugs” like cannabis. This tactic enables cannabis merchants to operate without being concerned about being detained, resulting in the development of the renowned Dutch coffee shop culture.
France: uncertainty surrounding medical cannabis
France is in a unique position, since several countries in Europe are going forward with cannabis reform. Macron administration questioned the widespread legalisation of medical cannabis in the country. The government has unveiled the 2024 Social Security Financing Bill, which notably lacks a budget or regulatory framework for the wider legalisation of cannabis for therapeutic use as the continuing medical cannabis trial nears its end in 2024. Despite the trial’s claimed success, this uncertainty has put patients and advocates in a bind.
Switzerland: an innovative approach to cannabis
Switzerland is not taking a neutral stance on cannabis. Two Swiss cities — Geneva and Lausanne — have started pilot programs for the sale of cannabis to consumers under legal conditions. With complete deployment projected for November or December 2023, these trials are anticipated to start in October. The forward-thinking approach to cannabis legislation in Switzerland shows that, if novel concepts are not yet common within European borders, they are quickly becoming so.
Other countries could benefit from using Switzerland as a model for cannabis regulation. In the Swiss cannabis programs, data collection and comparison of diverse consumer groups are of a great importance. This empirical method can help decision-makers in their job by providing important insights into the outcomes of restricted cannabis distribution.
Italy: CBD shift
Instead of regulating any form of cannabis, new legislation in Italy focuses on CBD oil. The Ministry of Health’s regulation, however, only mentions “oral compositions containing CBD extracted from the plant” for medical purposes. As a result, hemp flowers, CBD-infused cosmetics, and cannabis light are permitted and may be bought without restriction.
However, this choice attracted a lot of criticism. Organizations from the hemp sector spoke out against the regulation and emphasized how unfounded it was in terms of science. The assumption that CBD is a risk-free modifying agent with no misuse potential or intoxication effects is also supported by international organizations like the WHO and the United Nations.
The European mosaic of cannabis policy
Cannabis policy in Europe is a vibrant, multi coloured tapestry. The Netherlands is getting ready for its ground-breaking legalisation pilot program and Portugal is making moves toward recreational use. While Switzerland is advancing with novel cannabis legislation, France is still unsure about the future of medical cannabis. Moreover, Italy is making surprising changes within availability of CBD oil.
Cannabis attitudes and practices vary widely across Europe. We will undoubtedly continue to examine this issue in the years to come. Every country is establishing its own particular path through the complex structure of cannabis legislation and consumption. The continent undergoes a fundamental shift in its attitude toward the drug.