European Nations Are Moving to Legalise Recreational Cannabis

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Europe Cannabis

The last ten years have seen North America champion the legalisation of recreational cannabis.

Eighteen US states now have lawful adult use, along with Washington DC and the territory of Guam. The entire nation of Canada legalised and regulated the use of the plant for pleasure in October 2018. And Mexico’s Supreme Court decriminalised recreational cannabis last June.

Yet, while the Netherlands has long been known for its tolerance of the use of cannabis in cafes, it was the tiny nation of Malta that became the first country on the European continent to legalise recreational cannabis since a global prohibition on the plant took hold last century.

Malta’s legal cannabis laws were passed in mid-December. Under the system, adults can carry up to seven grams of cannabis on them and an individual can grow up to four plants at home. However, smoking in public or in front of children remains illegal.

The European nation’s decision to legalise cannabis was sparked by the reclassification of the drug by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in December 2020. The UN body removed it from the harshest schedule, where it had sat alongside deadly drugs, in recognition of its therapeutic uses.

Continental cannabis

But the UN cannabis reclassification has impacted further than Malta. In December, the new German coalition government advised that it will be passing laws to facilitate the sale of cannabis for recreational use to adults from licensed shops.

Earlier this month, Bill 4746 was introduced into French parliament. If passed, it will legalise adult cannabis use at the federal level, as well as establish a regulated market. And a number of the nation’s parliamentary groups have indicated their support for the proposal.

While, just a few days later, Italian officials revealed that their nation will be holding a cannabis legalisation referendum in the spring. And if successful, the national vote would also see the cultivation and use of psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms, made lawful.

Indeed, there are further European cannabis developments a foot. The government in Luxemburg unveiled its plan to legalise the plant last October, while Switzerland and the Netherlands are set to expand their adult use pilot programs that already operate in certain jurisdictions.

Developments down under

The National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019 outlines that the rather innocuous drug has been used by 36 percent of the Australians at some point over their lifetimes, while 11 percent of those questioned had partaken in the plant during the 12 months prior.

In a move to facilitate the legalisation of medicinal cannabis, the Therapeutics Goods Administration (TGA) downgraded medicinal cannabis use in 2016, from its strictest prohibited schedule to the controlled drug category, which enabled it to be prescribed by doctors for treatment purposes.

In terms of lawful adult use, the ACT passed laws which legalised it in January 2020. Canberrans can now lawfully possess and use cannabis. However, unlike their North American counterparts, the capital territory’s laws didn’t establish a regulated market.

But, with the Greens prioritising legalisation in other jurisdictions, and the Legalise Cannabis Western Australia Party having secured two upper house seats in that state’s 2020 election, it can be assumed that it won’t be too long before lawful cannabis seeps across the ACT border.

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Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He's the winner of the 2021 NSW Council for Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Paul wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

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