by Nicolas Green  

While a lot of Cannabis-related news usually comes from the Americas every now and then, not often do we hear such news from Europe. Although the pace on the other side of the ocean is slower, it doesn’t translate to the lack of developments at all. For instance, on November 30th, politicians of the European parliament assembled with different patients, activists, campaigners, entrepreneurs, and scientists from the Cannabis community in Europe to talk about what the future of the industry holds at the first International Conference on Medical Marijuana. The occasion was planned by the European United Left/Nordic Green Left European Parliamentary Group, headed by German MEP Stefan Eck and Greek MEP Stelios Kouloglou.

Below is a brief roundup of the latest and most significant Cannabis News in Europe:

The NetherlandsCannabis in Holland has a lengthy history of legal arguments. It is considered as one of the numerous tourists’ attraction because of its availability in the so-called ‘coffee shops’. This however does not make Cannabis legal. The legal framework is complicated. Cannabis sale through coffee shops is only ‘tolerated’. For many years, these shops are granted permission to sell legally however, buying from growers is considered illegal (but the regulatory bodies turn a blind eye to these activities, hence the tolerant attitude).

There was a debate in the last years on altering the relevant laws and the government had agreed to make the draft law to help combat criminality. As a result of this verdict, Lawmakers in the Dutch lower house have not long ago passed a law that supports the legal cultivation as well as cannabis sale, with government regulations. This new law still needs to be approved in the upper house referred to as the First Chamber, where it is not certain that a majority will be reached. The bill, if approved will reverse a ban that stops the public from growing more than five plants for personal use and would as well aid quality checks on Cannabis crops while permitting authorities to levy taxes on what has become a multi-million euro industry. In any case, it is a welcome development and might well be a start.

Germany: In Germany, one of the fastest growing medical marijuana laws has not long ago been passed. The law would make cannabis a drug that can be prescribed legally, and covered by insurance to begin in March 2017; this is due to the support of Berlin’s Bundestag. Cultivation for medical purposes will be controlled by the state. The weed will be circulated just like the other pharmaceutical prescriptions when cannabis is recommended for severe illnesses (multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, severe appetite loss or nausea due to chemotherapy).

The patients won’t get the right to grow their own cannabis at home. It also appears as though the new cannabis strategic plan will provide new jobs. The Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) is searching for scientists to help implement a new law, effective in March, which gives room for doctors to write medical marijuana recommendations for critically ill patients. Different Job listings have been advertised in the past weeks to work on implementing the law since it was passed by the German parliament.

Italy: The use of cannabis for medical purposes had initially been authorized in Italy as far back as 2007. But it seems that the society was not ready to accept Cannabis as plant of medicinal value. So we had to wait until September of 2016 for Cannabis to be registered in the Medical Agency. Medical practitioners spent a lot of time debating on whether or not to make cannabis a viable option because of the uncertainty surrounding the circumstances of its usage, dosages and ways to administer it.

Recently, the first groups of made-in-Italy pots have just arrived in pharmacies. Its fabrication is just one of the many activities of the military’s chemical and pharmaceutical institute (ICFM). At the formidably named Military Pharmaceutical Plant in Florence, 100kg of cannabis is grown per year. Medical marijuana is legal for people suffering from pain and seeks liberation from cancer and multiple sclerosis.

France: One of the strictest cannabis-related policies in Europe can be found in France. Numbers from France’s public health agency reveals that about 700,000 citizens consume cannabis on a daily basis. Additionally, over 80% of the French think that the current punitive legislation, among the most repressive in Europe is not effective while 52% agree to a certain level of legalization and would love the issue to be discussed during the forthcoming presidential campaign later this year. Benoit Hamon, one of the leading outsiders in the race to become France’s next president is described as the “French Bernie Sanders” that supports a 35 hour workweek in addition to the legalization of cannabis and euthanasia.

The conservative and strict policy did not provide any good results as people still consume cannabis. In fact, France has the top percentage of 15-year-old pot smokers in a group of 42 well-off countries surveyed by the world health organization (WHO). The issue of cannabis has become popular than ever and this is the first time that candidates have to openly express their stances during the French presidential elections. This is a good development in any case.

As discussed earlier, things are not moving quite rapidly in Europe, but they are taking steps in the right direction.

European Cannabis News 02.26.17

Nicolas Green studied sociology in Oslo, and works as a freelance researcher and writer. He is interested in digital currencies, new models of consumption and new markets.

Green lives in Rotterdam, Netherlands.