In a milestone development for Europe, Luxembourg looks likely to become the first country in the EU to legalise cannabis, including recreationally. While cannabis is decriminalised or tolerated in the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the Czech Republic – and most EU countries currently allow some form of medical cannabis – Luxembourg is the first to pursue legalisation.
However, there are caveats. Unlike alcohol, it is expected that only citizens will be able to buy or possess cannabis. Whether this includes EU citizens remains unclear, but the Luxembourg government is reportedly not seeking to use cannabis as a tourist attraction.
The coalition government – led by Prime Minister Xavier Bettel (pictured) and comprising the Democratic Party, Socialist Workers’ Party and The Greens – has released a 250-page policy document, which says the aims of the move include:
- removing consumers from the black market
- reducing “psychological and physical harms”
- reducing criminal activity at the supply level.
The document notes that the production, purchase, possession and consumption will be regulated within Luxembourg’s borders, which likely would not allow for exports or imports.
The policy document also establishes a two-year evaluation period for Luxembourg’s medical cannabis program – legalised earlier this year – after which the country will decide whether to follow Germany’s model, where it is covered by medical insurance.
Consumer group Consumer Choice Center told Just-Food that while “this sends a strong message to other countries in the EU”, making it legal only for xitizens “iswrong way to go, since it is not only discriminatory but could also increase black market presence… We feel that cannabis should be legal for purchase to all adults, regardless of nationality. Doing so could help create a new tourism industry in the country. At the end of the day, there is no reason to treat legal cannabis more strictly than legal alcohol. If foreigners, of age, can buy legal alcohol in the country, they should also be able to buy cannabis.”
The group said early press statements by the coalition partners indicate that marijuana use would only be legal for residents.
“That would be the wrong way to go, since it is not only discriminatory but could also increase black market presence in the area,” said Wirtz. “We feel that cannabis should be legal for purchase to all adults, regardless of nationality. Doing so could help create a new tourism industry in the country. At the end of the day, there is no reason to treat legal cannabis more strictly than legal alcohol. If foreigners, of age, can buy legal alcohol in the country, they should also be able to buy cannabis.”
When exactly the changes will be implemented within the five-year parliament remains to be seen, but the move appears to be an example of a real democratic process. Earlier this year a parliamentary debate was held after a public petition calling for cannabis to be legalised for recreational use and distributed through coffee shops in Luxembourg gained enough support for it to be discussed at the Chamber.
With Luxembourg also introducing free public transport throughout the country, the country of 600,000 truly puts Britain to shame!