European Cannabis News Update – The Highs and Lows

It seems that the news coming out of America pertaining to cannabis is quite abundant. Things, however, are quite different in Europe. This does not mean that there isn’t any news surrounding cannabis coming from Europe. In fact, there have been several recent updates. Let’s take a look at some of the recent developments with cannabis in Europe.

CROATIA: Back in October of 2015, Croatia decided to soften the relevant legislation and legalized cannabis for medical use. This made them the very first country in the Balkans to permit legal access to medical cannabis for patients who suffer from serious illnesses. The purchase of marijuana, however can only be made legally from pharmacies. The Croatia government has partnered with a Canadian company to import its products to Croatia for distribution. Patients will have access to two varieties of liquid capsules that contain the active medicinal ingredients found in cannabis. This shows great progress as this will be the first export of Canadian cannabis. It is a big step for Croatia. The health ministry warned that it remains illegal to grow marijuana and that medical marijuana can only be legally prescribed by doctors.

ITALY: Recently the Italian government made a decision to update their draconian cannabis laws including ones that could have prosecuted scientists that worked in labs that performed medical marijuana research. The recent changes to the law now prevent this kind of situation from occurring. This was a good start, however, it did not do much for patients who utilize cannabis as a medicine. On July 25th, legislation was presented in Italy’s lower house that proposes the legalization of cannabis as well as a distribution system. Italy’s Parliament will continue debating other cannabis-friendly legal reforms and will also discuss adult-use. Politicians will have to decide if the bill will pass through to the upper house for a final approval.  Senator and Deputy Foreign Minister Benedetto Della Vedova, expressed his support openly for both cannabis legalization and the parliamentary group(Intergruppo Cannabis Legale) that supports more cannabis friendly policies.

GERMANY: Germany is the biggest country in Europe and every change in German Cannabis policy has a big impact in the European Union. Germany’s Minister of Health, Hermann Groehe, announced that next year the country will start a medical cannabis program. With Germany being the biggest country in Europe, this also means that they will be home to the largest population of individuals who would benefit from legalization. For many years, the Netherlands has been the primary source for German patients to obtain cannabis. As Cannabis has become more popular over the last few years, the Netherlands can no longer guarantee that they can keep up with the demand going forward. Also, the German population has realized that the cost would be cheaper for them if they built their own supply chain. They plan to cultivate and produce their own medicinal marijuana and the cost for the patients’ treatment is expected to be covered by their insurance companies. German Justice plays a catalytic role in these changes. Just recently the German Court ruled that a seriously ill man has the right to grow his own medical marijuana when he asked for his right to be confirmed. The German Federal Administrative Court (the highest court in the German justice system) made a landmark decision(one that cannot be appealed or overturned) and ruled in favor of a multiple sclerosis patient’s rights to cultivate their own cannabis at home for medical purposes.

ENGLAND: A few months before the infamous Brexit occurred, there was a big debate on whether the policy of the country should change to be softer than it was. A grassroots movement campaigned for that change and managed to collect more than 200,000 signatures for a petition requesting a more cannabis friendly legal framework. As with every debate, all the opinions were heard. Some studies performed by the Institute for Social and Economical Research made predictions that a legal cannabis market would cut the UK deficit by £1.25 billion. The government seemed to realize the economic aspect of the issue and that legalization could mean huge profits during these difficult times of economic crisis.  Despite the fact that the debate surrounding legalization is still pending in England, events such as the Product Earth Expo are showing promise for the future.

Unfortunately, we cannot report that things are equally promising in France.

FRANCE: Although France wants to be known as a liberal and free country, when it comes to Cannabis, the laws are very strict. Cannabis use has been illegal in the country since 1970. Even the smallest of amounts are punishable by one year in prison and a $4,200 fine. In a recent interview, the socialist minister Jean-Marie Le Guen stated that “prohibition had not caused drug use to fall”, and members of his party expressed their disappointment and called decriminalization “a bad idea.” The one and only medical cannabis product that was supposed to be legally available in the country since January of 2014, is still not available for those who need it. Many individuals speculate that the reason why stems directly to the French alcohol industry as they see cannabis as a threat, just like the alcohol industry in the U.S.

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