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This week all eyes were focused on Germany and the mid-sentence lane change. Even though the change in direction in their legislative course has been a long time coming and was predicted by a variety of experts, right to the end there seemed to be hope that German efficiency will somehow pull the original idea through. And for those who don’t know what we are talking about, you can check it out here.
But, as we all know, one swallow doesn’t make a summer and much as some people would like to believe, Germany is not the centre of the universe – a lot of things are happening all over Europe. Seeing that it’s the beginning of the convention/expo get-together season in Europe, we thought it a good idea to have a quick round up of what is happening around cannabis in Europe.
Those in the know have been keeping an eye on movement in Czechia who have quietly been working towards a manageable solution. Long known for very lax applied laws and tolerance from law enforcement, discussions around a regulated market started late last year. In September, national drug coordinator Jindřich Vobořil announced his plans to deliver reform by early 2024, with the backing of Prime Minister Petr Fiala, who holds a parliamentary majority. Accoring to Vobořil they propose taxing cannabis and collecting funds for licensing and is counting on a significant income for the state budget. At the same time they hope that there will be subsequent agreement with the government on some allocation of funds for prevention. This was in addition to the relaxation of the licenses for cultivating medicinal cannabis, allowing exportation and upping the allowable THC content in their hemp from 0,3% to 1%. Last week the Czech government approved a new drugs strategy to run until the end of 2025 that includes the introduction of a strictly regulated market in cannabis. The exact rules of the action plan are set to be set by an expert group, Prime Minister Petr Fiala said.
The expectations on Portugal to be one of the frontrunners in recreational use legislation has come a long way, but a snap election and disputed voting meant that cannabis legislation was not the number one priority. Since June last year the Left Bloc has been putting pressure on the government to move forward. Now it looks like the political will to advance legislation may be there and barring any unforeseen political crisis, it may even happen as early as this year. A special added bonus is the fact that all the political parties seem to agree on this.
On 1 August 2022, National Day in Switzerland, the country fully legalised medicinal cannabis. In January 2023 the Swiss pilot project, Weed Care kicked off. This project, the first step in moving towards legalisation of recreational use allows successful applicants to legally buy cannabis in certain pharmacies. This goes hand in hand with studies from health departments and psychiatric clinics. The project will last 2.5 years. In late March the pilot was extended from Basel to Zurich and Lausanne. The Zurich part will kick off in August 2023 and Lausanne end of this summer.
The Netherlands’ pilot project is currently struggling to get off the ground and has been postponed to 2024 because according to Health Minister Ernst Kuipers the implementation of the cannabis experiment is “extremely complicated” and he understood that to be the reason why it has been postponed several times. The first hurdle is the paperwork: arranging locations, obtaining permits and arranging a banking license has turned out to be very complex. Even though there is a general belief that cannabis is legal in The Netherlands, this is not the case. The government recently announced plans to prohibit the smoking of cannabis outside the coffeeshop model by banning smoking in the Red Light district in Amsterdam. Currently Amsterdam is not part of the projected pilot project. In the meantime the smallest party in the ruling coalition, the ChristenUnie is trying to up the minimum age of cannabis sales from 18 to 21.
Further, there has been a sharp decline in the reporting of illegal cannabis row by the energy network operators. This decrease does not mean that there are less cultivators, but rather an unwillingness to report them. “We have not done any in-depth research into it, but we suspect that it has to do with the regulation of cannabis cultivation,” a spokesperson said, “as a result, people may see less of the urgency of reporting a cannabis farm in their area.”
The National Health Service in the UK has only allowed five people to have prescription cannabis. This has led to a pressure group urging the government to pay attention to it. With legislation lagging far behind the more progressive countries in the rest of Europe, an illegal start-up that specialises in cannabis delivery, is making huge progress even though it is easily reachable through general search engines on the web. At the same time a pressure group of police commissioners are trying to convince the government to move cannabis from a Class B drug to a Class A drug, putting it in the same class as heroin and cocaine. Even though there has been an effort from the current mayor of London, Sadiq Khan to launch a pilot programme, the Tory government seems to be very much against any kind of reform. In March Celadon Pharmaceuticals became the first UK-based medicinal cannabis manufacturer to be granted a Home Office licence to sell its products in the UK since government reforms opened up the industry in 2018.
In December last year a French court overturned the government ban on CBD sales. In February some officials backed an advisory panel to take a public health approach to the plant. Following the publication of the report, the Mayor of Bègles, Clément Rossignol-Puech, proposed that his city could be the first territory to experiment with cannabis legalisation. Rossignol-Puech believes that the only way to reduce consumption and avoid negative consequences is through highly supervised legalisation and hopes to lift the taboo and reopen the debate around this issue. He seems to be of the minority opinion at the moment though. France is currently opposed to the legalisation of cannabis and has one of Europe’s most restrictive legislations. It also has Europe’s second-highest consumption levels with around 900,000 daily cannabis users, according to figures from the Interior Ministry. Last week France extended therapeutic cannabis trials for an extra year.
After becoming the first country in the EU to legalise recreational cannabis, Malta has been slow on the grow. Opaque legislation and opposition by certain government institutions have meant that the plan has taken longer to roll out than planned. In February the government opened applications for cannabis associations to apply starting at 1000 euros per association. These associations will have to adhere to strict rules including the testing of their cannabis. In March the government announced that cannabis greenhouses and ‘chain-store’ clubs will be permitted under new rules.
Interested in meeting us at one of the upcoming European trade shows? Check out where we will be heading in this article and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date not only on which trade shows we will be attending but also on what is happening in the industry.