Cannabis legalization has been a hot topic of debate across the world for many years, and Europe is no exception. While some countries out there have already legalized this plant for medical or recreational purposes, others are still considering their options. With the growing number of countries around the world changing their laws regarding cannabis, the question of whether Europe will follow suit is becoming increasingly relevant. In this article, we will explore the case of cannabis legalization in Europe, its current state, and the potential challenges.
The Case for Cannabis Legalization
Let’s first explore the case itself. There are several arguments in favor of plant legalization. We will highlight the two most crucial ones. The first main argument for it is that it can reduce drug-related harm by providing a safer and more regulated product. Prohibition has been shown to increase the risks associated with consumption, as users are forced to turn to the black market for their supplies.
Legalizing cannabis can ensure that they have access to a safer product. It can also provide harm-reduction and education measures to reduce the dangers associated with drug use. There will be more resources highlighting important points on plant consumption as well as more shops to get quality goods. Most of them may appear online, easing access to information and purchasing products. However, according to the insights from an experienced MjSEO.Agency team, both stores and informational resources will require quality platform optimization so that consumers can locate them online.
The second argument we would like to mention is that legalization can also generate significant tax revenue for governments. In the United States, where the plant was permitted after the 2018 Farm Bill, the legal cannabis market is estimated to be worth over $13 billion in 2022 and has generated billions of dollars in tax revenue for state governments. In Canada, direct sales of cannabis in the first 5-1/2 months of legalization generated $140 million in tax revenue for the federal and provincial governments. Considering those figures, in Europe, a legal cannabis market could provide a significant boost to the economy.
The Current State
In Europe, cannabis legalization has gained traction in recent years. While it remains illegal in most countries, as Malta has become the first EU country to legalize cannabis for personal use, several have already taken steps toward new reforms.
Following Malta, Germany has joined the enthusiasm for legalization. The country’s federal Cabinet reportedly agreed on a plan, beginning a lengthy process to permit the growth, cultivation (up to two or three plants per person), and distribution of cannabis. The proposed program would also make legal the purchase and possession of 20 to 30 grams of plant for personal consumption and sales via specialized shops. The use would still be forbidden for anyone under 18.
Currently, the cannabis plant is decriminalized for personal use and cultivation in Spain. When it comes to the consumer experience, the country is regarded as one of the “best places on earth for cannabis consumption.” Partly, it’s connected to the fact that the plant can be fairly easily obtained in high quality in many cities out there. But mostly, it’s because of the nation’s clubs. While cannabis communities in other countries are just beginning to discover the concept of social plant use, this country has largely perfected it.
However, Spain still has many hurdles to overcome on the public policy side of the equation. At present, there are, in fact, three areas of effort to reform the nation’s cannabis laws in a way that can make sure the nation’s industry will flourish. These are adult-use, medicinal, and industrial cannabis.
Regarding adult use, four laws have been presented in Congress and the Senate to regulate it. Despite that, none of them have the necessary majority to be approved so far. Therefore, the upcoming electoral year is thought to include a point on cannabis regulation in the political programs.
In 2021, the resolution was approved by the Spanish Congress to provide access to medicinal cannabis for patients. It’s anticipated to be implemented once the AEMPS (Spanish Medicines and Health Products Agency) suggests how to do it. The proposed regulation, however, is restricted to pharmaceutical channels, meaning finished products rather than plant flowers.
Finally, the use of flowers is still forbidden, even for unregulated cannabinoid extraction. Such a position by the Spanish authorities has caused a multitude of court proceedings. Recently, it led to the Supreme Court confirming in a ruling the restrictive vision of the country’s authorities. This case clashes completely with the wave of positive shifts regarding cannabis taking place in Europe.
It’s important to mention Portugal, as this country already legalized medical marijuana in 2018. It has become an essential spot for Canadian and American businesses to establish themselves in the European medical cannabis industry.
Currently, the licenses for cultivation here are valid for one year and must be renewed annually (by submitting applications to Infarmed). The process of getting licensing for extraction, on the other hand, demands additional authorizations. The same is true for selling wholesale medical cannabis, importing it, and exporting it. Being the first EU country to decriminalize illicit substances in 2001, Portugal now shows great opportunities regarding cannabis; its market appears strictly controlled and regulated.
Switzerland is also worthy of note. It has allowed the sale of medical cannabis (containing less than one percent THC) since 2011 and decriminalized recreational possession in 2013. Among the recent noteworthy and influential things to pay attention to is Zurich’s plan. The government has approved it in order to establish a trial program for cannabis sale and consumption, which is anticipated to start in the summer of 2023. The country is extending its pilot scheme for the legalization of the plant to examine its effects on the population.
Despite these points, several European countries still maintain strict cannabis prohibition laws. It is mainly connected to some challenges that legalization may bring.
What Are the Challenges?
Although there are potential benefits to cannabis legalization, there are also several challenges to take into consideration. One of the main concerns is the potential health risks associated with the plant’s use. While some strains of cannabis are generally considered to possess minimal side effects, this does not imply they are without risks. Heavy use of cannabis has been linked to a great risk of mental health problems, such as psychosis, and can also have negative impacts on memory, attention, and motivation.
Another challenge is the potential for increased use, particularly among young people. Critics argue that legalization could lead to a rise in plant consumption, which could have negative impacts on public health and safety. However, there are some studies that have shown that legalizing cannabis does not necessarily lead to increased use. For instance, in the USA, youth use rates have remained stable, indicating legalization did not influence adolescent use prevalence.
Cannabis legalization is a complex case that involves balancing competing concerns around public health, safety, and economic benefits. While there are some challenges to this issue, there is growing evidence that a legal and regulated market can provide significant advantages in many ways.
The shift towards cannabis reform in Europe is a positive step towards a more evidence-based and humane approach to drug policy. As attitudes continue to evolve and more countries consider plant legalization, it is crucial to weigh all the factors carefully and implement regulations that mitigate the risks while maximizing the benefits. However, this must be done in a responsible and transparent manner, with appropriate safeguards to prevent harm to individuals and society as a whole.