Luxembourg Could Be the First EU Country to Legalize Recreational Cannabis
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When talking about Europe and cannabis, we tend to think of The Netherlands, Amsterdam and its coffeeshops. Yet, cannabis is not totally legal in this country. Possession, trade and recreational use are tolerated but technically illegal.
Other countries like Germany, Portugal and Spain have taken the decriminalization path (on different levels). But Luxembourg is the EU country with the strongest will to change the game.
This little country of about 614,000 inhabitants will make cannabis history in the coming 2 years.
Cannabis has been decriminalized in Luxembourg since 2001. In 2018 a medical cannabis pilot was passed. CBD became legal.
CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabis compound used for medicinal purposes in Uruguay, Canada, some US states and other countries and regions where medicinal cannabis is regulated.
CBD is available without prescription, although edibles containing this compound are not legal yet. The reason for this is the lack of a European authorisation on this matter.
According to the Luxembourg government, CBD is a legal substance because it is harmless, non-intoxicating and not addictive.
In the 2018 elections, liberal prime minister Xavier Bettel promised to go even further and in 2019, Luxembourg announced a two-year plan to legalize recreational marijuana as well. The COVID-19 pandemic has inevitably delayed the plans.
In February 2020, the Luxembourg radio station 100.7 unveiled the legalisation project: 14 cannabis sales outlets would be opened soon.
Residents of Luxembourg aged over 18 would be able to buy up to 30 grams per person per month. And in order not to go the Dutch way (where tourists can buy cannabis), recreational marijuana would be available for residents only.
A concerning element of the legalization of recreational marijuana is whether to ban its use in public. The Dutch coffeeshop construction -without the tourists- could be a solution.
Although cannabis recreational use is decriminalized, its production, sale and purchase are still illegal.
In order to be eligible for treatment with medicinal cannabis, the law requires that the patient must be suffering from a serious illness or an illness with symptoms leading to a significant loss of quality of life.
The following groups of pathologies can currently benefit from medicinal cannabis:
Serious, advanced or terminal illnesses leading to chronic pain
Nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy
Muscle spasms linked to multiple sclerosis
A quarter of Luxembourgish health practitioners were initially authorised to prescribe cannabis as a painkiller. But now any practitioner who has undertaken specific training is able to prescribe the drug. Cannabis is then purchased under prescription in hospital pharmacies.
Status of Luxembourg cannabis medical pilot project
The pilot has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the plan is still on the table.
Luxembourg’s Health Minister, Paulette Lenert, announced in September of 2020 (link in French) that the legalization of medical cannabis proved to fill a gap in the demand.
According to her, this demand is increasing. The numbers backed her up: 441 patients treated with cannabis as of September of 2020, and 415 throughout 2019.
Lenert does not give any more detail on the possibility of Luxembourg producing cannabis within its borders.
All medical cannabis sold nowadays in Luxembourg is imported from Canada. Within the European Union only Austria and Germany have a cannabis agency.
There had been a two year period to legalize marijuana, but the Minister added (link in French): “No precise deadline has been set for the entry into force (of legalisation). Rather, the priority is for the government to give itself the time it needs to carry out this undertaking properly and calmly”.
Some MPs suggest additional diseases, including HIV, to be eligible for cannabis treatment.