ENCOD regularly publishes articles in the Cannadouro Magazine from Portugal.
Here’s the last spring edition published in the Portuguese language with the English version below.
In the past year, we witnessed important developments in cannabis policy in Europe. Discussions on recreational use of cannabis are getting louder across Europe and important steps have been taken by some countries to address the status quo in drug policy.
In Spain, particularly in Catalonia, the recreational use of cannabis is tolerated for many years. The Cannabis Social Club (CSC) model is already relatively well established, however, it is still not regulated. In the past year, several topics have been addressed on a national level such as medicinal cannabis, the economic impact of regulation, accessibility of cannabis, and a debate on cannabis regulation for recreational purposes entered the Spanish parliament. Three bills for comprehensive regulation of cannabis had been registered by three parties: the pro-Catalan independence, social-democratic Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, the left-wing Más País, and the democratic socialist electoral alliance Unidas Podemos. The latter was the most ambitious one, but it is still unsure how Spanish cannabis policies will develop in the future since all of the proposed bills received criticism not only from the opposition but also from those in favour of regulation. Many issues remain open, particularly those related to the inclusion of the civil society and vulnerable groups in the discussion, an appropriate representation of public and private sectors involved, and developing public policies that are based on evidence. These are challenges that not only the Spanish authorities are facing but apply to drug policy reform in general.
Germany also made headlines in autumn 2021 after the newly elected coalition of social democrats (SPD), Greens, and free democrats (FDP) agreed on the coalition agreement, which included cannabis regulation. They are in favour of decriminalisation, licensed shops and a ban on
the advertisement. There are many milestones to be taken before the first gram of cannabis is sold legally for recreational purposes but such a plan is already a major milestone on its own. Perhaps the estimation of 4.7 billion € tax income/savings per year calculated by a German economics institute analysing the effects of cannabis legalisation helped persuade the former finance minister and new chancellor. Germany paving the way towards a regulated market might very well serve as an example for other countries to follow.
Before Germany’s new coalition announced legalisation, Luxembourg’s similar coalition, consisting of (liberal-)democrats DP, socialists LSAP and the Greens, agreed on legalisation but only delivered decriminalisation: while possession of up to 3 grams leads only to a fine, there is now tolerance for self-cultivation up to 4 plants.
Probably the most decisive step towards a regulated cannabis market for recreational purposes was taken by the Maltese government. In March 2021, a White Paper was published that opened a substantial public discussion on the regulatory approach. Domestic and international experts and civil society have been participating in the discussions. In December, a law was passed that decriminalizes the possession of 7 grams of cannabis without any criminal or administrative repercussions; allows the cultivation of up to four plants per household; enables the establishment of cannabis associations (with up to 500 members) supplying cannabis and seeds to their members; and enables the expunction of criminal records. Although the Maltese approach is socially and non-profit oriented, it still presents issues, such as the sharing of cannabis, which is not specifically defined. The year 2022 will be a pivotal year for cannabis reform in Malta.
Public discussions on cannabis reform are becoming the “new normal” in Europe. Any advances towards regulation, however minor they might be, are better than the status quo maintained for over half a century. It is time to replace ignorance with knowledge, and take firm steps toward cannabis policies based on social equity, transparency, inclusion, effectiveness, and sustainability. Each step in this direction is a step in the right direction. Help us to walk this path – support ENCOD!
By Maja Kohek, ENCOD