Cannabis legal: In these countries smoking pot is permitted

by Pramith

The purchase and possession of cannabis is to be permitted within limits according to plans of the federal government in 2024, cornerstones for a cannabis legalisation in Germany have been decided. However, whether these government plans are compatible with international and European legal rules is still open. What is the situation in Europe with regard to cannabis?

Europe – In these countries cannabis is legal

European countries have very different approaches to the recreational drug.

  • Netherlands: In the Netherlands, the sale of so-called soft drugs, i.e. cannabis, has been tolerated in coffee shops since 1976. Adults over the age of 18 are allowed to buy five grams per person per day and smoke joints. This makes the Netherlands a worldwide pioneer in toleration. However, the cultivation and wholesale of cannabis – with the exception of medical purposes and five plants for private consumption – is prohibited.
  • Supplying the coffee shops is thus illegal – the trade goes through criminals. A government initiative is currently underway to legalise the cultivation of cannabis for the outlets.
  • Italy: The new right-wing government under Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is against cannabis legalisation. Italy’s politicians discussed the partial legalisation of cannabis in parliament’s justice committee last year. For private use, it should be allowed to grow up to four plants at home. Supporters collected hundreds of thousands of votes in autumn 2021 for a referendum to legalise the cultivation of the drug, but failed in the Constitutional Court.
  • Spain: Work is underway in Spain to legalise and regulate the use of cannabis for medical purposes. Parliament’s Health Committee passed an opinion in June 2022 calling on the government to take action within six months. However, the legalisation of recreational cannabis use was rejected.
  • France: Legalisation of cannabis is generally not in sight. However, a pilot project is underway for the medical use of the plant to treat serious illnesses.
  • Austria: Cannabis legalisation is currently ruled out in Austria. “We think this is the completely wrong way to go,” said Interior Minister Gerhard Karner (ÖVP). This means that the topic is off the table in the current ÖVP-Green coalition, despite the insistence of the Green junior partner. The SPÖ also rejects a complete liberalisation of private consumption. The Austrian Constitutional Court had only in the summer of 2022 rejected as futile the handling of an application by a man who had been caught with a joint by plainclothes police officers and wanted to sue.
  • Switzerland: Switzerland has recently relaxed its cannabis regulations: the ban on cannabis for medical purposes was lifted in August 2022. For certain diseases such as multiple sclerosis or chronic pain, doctors can prescribe cannabis medicines to those affected. In addition, several pilot projects for the distribution of cannabis for recreational purposes have been running recently. Cannabis products with less than one percent of the active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are not subject to the Narcotics Act in Switzerland and are freely available for purchase.
  • Czech Republic: Cultivation and possession of cannabis as an intoxicant are illegal. If it is a small amount for personal consumption, prosecution is usually waived. The decision on this is at the discretion of the judiciary. For medical purposes, cannabis has been available on prescription for a number of years.
  • Within the governing coalition, the Pirate Party advocates the legalisation of cannabis use. They argue for additional tax revenue for the state of up to 70 million euros annually. There are still differing opinions on this in the cabinet in Prague.
  • Luxembourg: Cannabis is not yet legal in Luxembourg. This was supposed to change as early as 2019, but the draft law was not ready in time. The latest target date is now 2021, but the new law will only apply to Luxembourgers.
  • Russia: Russia also sees the possession of marijuana as an administrative offence. The limit up to which you only have to expect a fine is six grams. Officially, however, the possession and consumption of marijuana is prohibited – this even applies to medical cannabis.

Cannabis – legality and different laws

Some states have already completely legalised cannabis, but the legal situation differs greatly in some of these countries.

  • Uruguay: The South American country is a pioneer in cannabis legalisation. It is permitted to grow up to six plants – but you need a state permit beforehand. For private use, adults can freely buy up to 40 grams of marijuana per month in pharmacies.
  • USA: 48 of the 50 states allow the use of cannabis, but in most cases only for medical purposes. Smoking pot for pleasure is so far only allowed in Alaska, Colorado, Illinois, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Washington DC and Vermont.
  • In Colorado, not only is the purchase and consumption of hashish or marijuana permitted – limited to an amount of 28 grams per day. Hashish biscuits and chocolate may also be sold here. Visitors to the state are allowed to buy seven grams of the drug a day
  • Canada: Since autumn 2018, cannabis has been freely available to all Canadians, and consumption and possession are permitted. Previously, cannabis was only legal for medical purposes. Cannabis in food is still prohibited – this is also to change through a change in the law.

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