EUROPEAN CANNABIS MARKETS
Home to one of the most liberal cities in the world, Netherlands has long been the preeminent European marijiuana-friendly country, and has created a worldwide cultural movement of tolerance. Despite not being fully legalized, marijuana use is decriminalized and can be easily purchased at many coffee shops in Amsterdam. The cultivation, production and distribution of the plant is still illegal, but retailers are able to conduct business under strict regulatory requirements.
All narcotics have been decriminalized in Portugal and, in most cases, those caught with narcotics are sent to rehabilitation centers. Repeat minor possession offenders can be sent to a review panel and may pay fines, but cultivation and distribution is completely illegal and could be punishable by imprisonment.
Cannabis decriminalization in Spain is complicated and less defined than some of its European counterparts. Public cannabis consumption is a serious offense and could incur a fine of up to 30,000 Euros. However, cannabis may be cultivated and consumed in a private space and the possession of small amounts is generally unpunished. Another law has led to the decriminalization of ‘closed circle’ cannabis social clubs that allow for weed to be grown and distributed to members without commercializing its use. These clubs lie in a gray area of legality, but are not heavily regulated.
Home to some of the strictest cannabis laws in Europe, penalties for possession and use can include prison time. French nationals attempted to exploit a loophole in the law that allowed for the sale of cannabis products containing less than 0.2% THC, but were promptly shut down by the French police. In 2014, France initiated a medical cannabis program that has been loosening over time showing high potential for economic growth and reversal of the war on drugs.
Medical cannabis has been legal in Germany since 2017, and the program continues to serve as an example to other European countries. The number of registered patients continues to increase and the cultural shift towards tolerance in Germany is actively growing. Unauthorized possession, supply and cultivation are still illegal and can be punishable by law depending on the state.
Medical cannabis is prominent in Switzerland with pharmacies and head shops selling on many Swiss streets. There is a 1% THC concentration limit for all cannabis products, which limits the level of interest for those seeking higher dosed medicinal products.
Medical cannabis laws in Italy are some of the most confusing rules to follow in Europe. There are cannabis stores in most major Italian cities but they can only market products as ‘collector’s items’ and it is still illegal to consume cannabis. Medical cannabis can be prescribed for ‘symptomatic treatment supporting standard treatment’ for select health conditions.
Access to medical cannabis in the Czech Republic is difficult due to the limited number of doctors licensed to prescribe its use. However, medical patients with a prescription have access to a generous 180 grams of medical cannabis each month, one of the largest allowances in Europe.
This international stronghold is on the cusp of changing policies and cultural acceptance of medical cannabis. Cultivation, distribution, and possession of cannabis is still illegal and punishable up to five years of prison time. The first UK dispensary opened in Cheadle of the Greater Manchester area, allowing those holding a special license to purchase limited forms of medical cannabis.