By / November 30, 2022

European Cannabis Legalization – Where Are We At?

Many European Union countries have toyed with legalizing medical cannabis in recent years, and several pilot projects are taking place across the continent that could eventually lead to broader legalization. And then, of course, there’s the promised legalization of cannabis for recreational use in Germany that could trigger big changes across Europe.

But Europe has generally taken a more conservative approach to cannabis policy than the United States – and certainly Canada, which four years ago became the first country in the world to establish a legal adult-use cannabis industry.

However, a big change could come after the new governing coalition in Germany – Europe’s largest economy – last month published a plan to establish the continent’s first regulated adult-use cannabis market. The biggest obstacle Germany faces is EU regulations and international drug treaties.

Here’s a brief overview of the current situation regarding approaches to cannabis in European countries. For more details and the latest updates, download our free cannabis news app.

Czech Republic

The Czech government is considering establishing a regulated adult-use cannabis market. The final proposal is expected to be approved in March and would go into effect in 2024 if enacted, Radio Prague International reports. Medical cannabis has been legal in the Czech Republic since 2017. Recreational use is already widespread, with nearly 10 percent of Czech adults saying they use cannabis regularly. Officials want to coordinate the legalization plan with lawmakers in Berlin.

“At the moment, there is a political consensus to create this proposal to regulate cannabis,” anti-drug coordinator Jindřich Vobořil said at a press conference last month. “We believe this regulation will be more effective than the current prohibition.”


In March, members of five political parties in the Danish parliament called on the government to prepare a five-year pilot program to legalize cannabis. Under their plan, Danish residents over 18 would be able to buy weed in public stores, and cannabis could be grown and produced domestically.

But this proposal has not been enacted, as Mette Frederiksen’s ruling party is opposed to reforming the law. Legalizing cannabis would affect many Danes – more than 40 percent have tried hashish in their lives, a recent report found. Many users will likely have acquired it in Copenhagen’s Bohemian Christiana neighborhood, known for its open cannabis sales.

But for now, five pro-cannabis parties, including the Red-Green Alliance and the Socialist People’s Party, do not have a majority. Time will tell if some of them will make it into the newly formed government after the November 1 elections.


Finland’s most significant step toward legalization is still relatively small. In 2019, a public initiative collected more than 59,000 signatures in favor of decriminalizing the personal use of cannabis, reaching the threshold that would require parliament to consider the initiative in its current term, which ends in 2023.

But support among political parties in Finland is low. Only one party in the ruling coalition, the Green League, has so far officially endorsed cannabis legalization. But even there, the party conference vote was almost perfectly split, with 183 votes in favor and 181 against legalization.

As for penalties, the law in Finland is rather lenient. For example, if someone is caught smoking a joint in Helsinki, they are likely to be fined, and the chances of a prison sentence are low.


In March 2021. France has launched a two-year experiment legalizing cannabis for medical purposes. The trial involves 3,000 patients with epilepsy, neuropathic pain, chemotherapy side effects, multiple sclerosis, or other terminal illnesses. To qualify, participants must show that all other treatments were ineffective or caused severe side effects.

Study participants receive cannabis – including oils and pills, but not smoking products – at no cost, and the program is run by the country’s federal health agency. Cannabis advocates hope the pilot program will eventually lead to a broader legalization of medical cannabis in France.

Recreational cannabis use is still illegal in the country, but cannabis possession has been decriminalized since 2018. Possession of small amounts of cannabis is punishable by a €200 fine. President Emmanuel Macron has stated that he opposes the legalization of cannabis for adults.


Medical cannabis has been legal in Greece since 2017, but recreational use is still prohibited. Cannabis is available by prescription for a variety of conditions, including pain, epilepsy, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Medical cannabis was legalized to give the country economic growth through exports to other European countries, according to Reuters.

The legalization of adult-use cannabis in Greece is not currently under discussion, although the country remains one of the main arteries for illegal cannabis smuggling into Europe. According to the BBC, much of the smuggling goes through the Albanian-Greek border.


The Netherlands has long been a destination for cannabis tourists, thanks to Amsterdam’s famous coffee shops where customers can buy and smoke pot. But despite liberal policies, cannabis production in the Netherlands has never been legal, so coffee shops buy cannabis for resale from unlicensed growers. But some local officials, such as Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema, are fed up with cannabis-influenced tourists and want to ban tourists from coffee shops.

Meanwhile, the Dutch government is running a four-year pilot program with regulated cannabis production in 10 medium-sized cities. The government has allowed applications for the pilot program in 2020, but its launch is being pushed back – most recently to 2023.


In June, Spain legalized cannabis for medical purposes – meaning cannabis can be available by prescription. However, the consumption and sale of recreational cannabis remain illegal, although the country is famous for its cannabis consumption.

Spain was one of the first European countries to decriminalize the recreational use of cannabis. Since then, different provinces have taken different approaches to cannabis distribution. There is no fully legal market, but some regions have allowed “cannabis clubs” where members can buy cannabis. Other parts of Spain still have a thriving illegal market, with hashish and cannabis from Morocco being smuggled across the Mediterranean.

Several political parties in Spain, including Podemos and Más País, support full legalization. But Spain’s Socialist Workers Party, the political party in power, has broken relations with other members of the Unidas Podemos coalition and sided with right-wing parties to reject a legalization proposal brought by Más País in 2021.


The small, landlocked country became one of the leaders in changing European cannabis laws when it moved to legalize and regulate adult-use cannabis in 2018. However, after encountering problems with European Union law, the country decided earlier this year to limit the proposal to decriminalizing possession and growing cannabis at home.

The country legalized medical cannabis in 2018. While Luxembourg has not yet legalized the recreational use of cannabis, possession of small amounts is treated as an offense. Luxembourg also hosted a meeting in July to discuss cannabis policy with Germany, Malta, and the Netherlands.


The smallest country in Europe arguably took the boldest step toward full cannabis legalization last year when it allowed the possession of small cannabis plants. Under Maltese law, adults 18 and older can possess up to 7 grams of cannabis, grow as many as four plants and store up to 50 grams at home. However, fines and criminal penalties still exist for those possessing quantities above the permitted limit. Malta began allowing doctors to prescribe medical cannabis in 2018.

While the law did not establish a regulated recreational market, it does allow for the creation of cannabis clubs, where individuals can purchase up to 50 grams of cannabis per month. However, almost a year after the law was passed, no cannabis clubs have opened, according to Andrew Bonello, president of the legalization group Releaf Malta.

There have been significant positive developments in Malta, but it cannot be said that Malta has legalized cannabis.


The largest European economy also has the most audacious cannabis legalization plan in Europe. Germany wants to decriminalize the purchase and possession of small amounts of cannabis. This is an election promise of the center-left coalition that came to power last year. Under the proposal, cannabis could be sold in licensed stores and potentially in pharmacies, although its advertising would be prohibited. To avoid international legal friction, cannabis imports would be banned.

However, a bill to legalize recreational cannabis must be passed by parliament. Until then, politicians and lobbyists will negotiate the details of the proposed law, which was approved on October 26 by the three-party ruling alliance led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The ban on cannabis imports, for example, will almost certainly be challenged. That’s because Germany is unlikely to be able to meet its estimated 400 tons of cannabis demand annually. That could open the door for illegal sellers that the government wants to put out of business through legalization. It would also require international cannabis companies to undergo a certification process to expand and sell their products in Germany.

The issues of Internet sales and the operation of “coffee shops” also need to be revisited. While coffee shops can provide a “high level of protection by experienced staff,” the bill is more skeptical of online commerce, particularly because of concerns that it will be difficult to prevent children from buying cannabis.

Germany will send its plan to the European Commission to determine whether it complies with existing agreements and treaties, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said last month. Only if the European Union’s executive agrees will the law take effect, possibly in early 2023. Other European countries are keeping a close eye on how Germany is doing as they consider reforms in their own countries.


Poland is expected to play an important role in the European cannabis market in the coming years, becoming the 12th European country to legalize medical cannabis in 2017. Currently, the law does not provide for the domestic cultivation of hemp for medical purposes. As a result, cannabis must be imported, which will significantly increase costs for patients living in Poland.

A report published by Euromonitor International indicates that the value of the hemp business in Poland has quadrupled since 2019. In 2019, the entire industry was valued at 210 million zlotys, and by 2021 the value had risen to 900 million zlotys. Experts estimate that the value of the Polish hemp industry will reach more than €2 billion by 2028. Already, the Polish hemp industry has an 8% share of the value of the European hemp market, which is about 1% and ranks 9th globally.

Analysts at Prohibition Partners say that in 2020, more than 4,100 patients in Poland were using cannabis for medical purposes, and today the number has reached more than 9,000. It is relatively easy for Poles to obtain a prescription for medical cannabis rich in THC. All they need to do is schedule an appointment at a cannabis clinic, send medical documentation confirming their illnesses or conditions, and if the patient qualifies for cannabis treatment, they receive a prescription for medical cannabis. However, medical documentation is often not required, and a prescription for cannabis can be obtained, for example, to treat insomnia.

Recreational use of cannabis is illegal in Poland. Although a group of MPs and activists formed the Parliamentary Team for the Legalization of Cannabis to work on changing the law, the last meeting occurred on May 12, 2022. The chairwoman of the Parliamentary Team for the Legalization of Cannabis – Beata Maciejewska – is trying to promote cannabis on social media but is doing so ineptly. By publishing posts on Instagram with the message “Don’t drink vodka, smoke weed, because it’s healthy and good,” she is doing more harm to the cause than helping it.


Cannabis and other drugs have been decriminalized in Portugal since 2001. Those possessing up to 25 grams of plant material or five grams of hashish will be fined at most. However, there are no legal channels to buy cannabis for recreational purposes.

Medical cannabis has been legal since 2018 and requires a prescription from a doctor. The country has also become a cradle of cannabis cultivation due to its hospitable climate, and Canadian companies such as Tilray and Aurora Cannabis have cultivation operations there.


Switzerland is taking a cautious, research-focused approach to cannabis legalization. The European country authorized doctors to prescribe medical cannabis in August of this year. However, the recreational use of products with THC potency above 1 percent remains prohibited.

The country is launching a series of pilot projects to test the regulated sale of recreational cannabis. The first such experiment was set to begin in September in Basel, involving 370 current cannabis users. Participants in the trial will be able to purchase six products from dispensaries, including four varieties of cannabis with THC concentrations ranging from 5 to 17 percent. In addition, registrants are required to complete a survey every six months about their consumption habits and mental and physical health.

However, the project got off to an unsuccessful start when its launch was delayed indefinitely after some of the supposedly organic products contained pesticides. As a result, more pilot projects are planned in Bern, Zurich, and Geneva. Switzerland estimates that there are now 220,000 regular cannabis consumers in the country. In 2008, voters rejected a decriminalization proposal.

United Kingdom

The UK legalized medical cannabis in 2018, allowing access to medical cannabis in limited circumstances. Only specialists can prescribe cannabis for certain conditions, and patients have difficulty accessing the products through the National Health Service.

Some patients use private cannabis clinics, where it is somewhat easier to obtain a prescription. According to Prohibition Partners, the UK has seen a 425 percent increase in the number of medical cannabis prescriptions written by doctors at cannabis clinics between 2020 and 2021.

It is unclear what the new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s position is on cannabis policy. He has criticized rival Liz Truss for her past support for liberalizing cannabis laws but has refused to take a position himself. Although a survey titled Recreational Europe indicates that most UK residents support legalizing cannabis for adults, it is probably not an issue the government will address anytime soon.

Nonetheless, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, following a visit to Los Angeles, launched a commission in May to review cannabis policy.


Italy legalized medical cannabis in 2013 but relied on importing products from the Netherlands, which proved costly for patients. To dissuade patients from using the illegal market, the government launched its own domestic production program, entrusting the army to grow medical cannabis. This is because the army is responsible for producing other orphan drugs – medicines for rare diseases for which there is no viable commercial market.

But not everyone is happy with the products or the program itself. According to a PBS NewsHour special on the subject, the army has been unable to keep up with demand, leaving some patients out in the cold. Other patients continued to opt for expensive imported cannabis, pointing out that Italian-grown cannabis contains only a fraction of the THC usually found in cannabis imported from the Netherlands.

Meanwhile, an attempt to legalize cannabis by a nationwide vote looked like it was headed for a ballot after activists collected more than half a million signatures last year. But in February, the Supreme Court rejected the referendum. Former Constitutional Court president Giuliano Amato said the referendum “is enough for us to violate many international obligations,” Reuters reported.

(Featured image by Anthony Beck via Pexels)

DISCLAIMER: This article was written by a third-party contributor and does not reflect the opinion of, its management, staff, or its associates. Please review our disclaimer for more information.

This article may include forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements generally are identified by the words “believe,” “project,” “estimate,” “become,” “plan,” “will,” and similar expressions. These forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks as well as uncertainties, including those discussed in the following cautionary statements and elsewhere in this article and on this site. Although the company may believe that its expectations are based on reasonable assumptions, the actual results that the company may achieve may differ materially from any forward-looking statements, which reflect the opinions of the management of the company only as of the date hereof. Additionally, please make sure to read these important disclosures.

First published in Fakty Konopne, a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.

Although we made reasonable efforts to provide accurate translations, some parts may be incorrect. assumes no responsibility for errors, omissions or ambiguities in the translations provided on this website. Any person or entity relying on translated content does so at their own risk. is not responsible for losses caused by such reliance on the accuracy or reliability of translated information. If you wish to report an error or inaccuracy in the translation, we encourage you to contact us.

Comments are closed for this post.