Laws and Regulations

Three nations lead EU states toward joined-up cannabis reforms

Written by CBD Intel

Nations call for “structured and multilateral drug policy” for recreational cannabis, reports CBD-Intel

Germany, Luxembourg and Malta have taken the first step towards working together on the legalisation and regulation of recreational cannabis, leading a potential wave of reform across the EU.

Officials from the three countries, as well as the Netherlands, met in July in the first of what is expected to be a series of multilateral talks on regulating cannabis for non-scientific and non-medical use.

These discussions are needed to review “existing and future regulations and policies in the light of new scientific evidence, monitoring data, emerging consumption patterns and market evolutions”, according to a joint statement signed by the three countries. “This review should be guided primarily by principles of public health and public security,” it says, and signatories will “strive for a balanced approach between public health and criminal justice responses to the drugs phenomenon”.

While the Netherlands is understood to support the statement, the Dutch official who attended the meeting apparently lacked the authority to sign it. Luxembourg’s minister of justice, Sam Tanson, was quoted as saying that everyone at the meeting agreed that “the status quo is not an option. We need a new structured and multilateral drug policy.”

Cannabis policies must be reassessed in light of recent legislative changes in other countries, the statement says. It calls for stronger health and social responses, such as prevention and harm-reduction programmes and treatment, and “new approaches beyond prohibition-based drug policies”.

While some cannabis advocates described the meeting as a “huge deal”, German attorney Michelle Hembury noted that no formal collaboration had been agreed. She cautioned that the joint statement was “a mere preliminary step towards an actual change in European drug policy” and that EU member states are “still more or less legally committed to a policy of prohibiting cannabis and its legal trade”.

Even those looking to change are only doing so in small, incremental steps – as demonstrated by Luxembourg and Malta, where initial liberalisation has taken the form of decriminalisation of possession and limited home growing rather than full commercial sales.

International law permits the cultivation, supply and possession of cannabis only for medical and scientific purposes. Most European countries allow medical cannabis and a growing number of governments have decriminalised possession of small amounts of cannabis. Still, the United Nations remains opposed to the legalisation of recreational cannabis, saying it is harmful to human health.

“For national regulations to be valid and to have a kind of pull effect in the future, [laws in European countries] must first be amended with the necessary majority of votes and in accordance with the proper procedures,” said Hembury, an associate at Heidelberg-based Melchers, specialists in cannabis law. “All this requires a chain of individual steps, so a future outlook remains fraught with imponderables.”

Still, a group of European politicians wants to do just that. Five members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from different parties and countries – the Czech Republic and Ireland as well as Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands – have formed an informal interest group to push for more open, fact-based talks about the legalisation of cannabis for personal use.

They urged other MEPs to discourage prohibitionist policies on cannabis in their own countries and called on more governments to follow the example of Germany, Luxembourg and Malta.

Germany, a political heavyweight in the EU, could serve as a role model for other countries – possibly the Czech Republic or Portugal – to join and build some political clout, Hembury said. That would underpin the goal of triggering a constructive discourse that could lead to collaboration with other EU states.


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