The tiny European country of Luxembourg is about the lead the European Union by becoming the first EU country to legalize the production and consumption of cannabis. Luxembourg has already legalized medical cannabis and decriminalized simple possession for the 614,000-plus people living there. The production, sale, and purchase of cannabis for recreational purposes is still illegal, but not for much longer.
On Wednesday, Luxembourg Health Minister Etienne Schneider confirmed reports that the EU nation is moving to legalize cannabis. Citing the failure of prohibitionist policies, Schneider also called on fellow EU member states to relax their own drug laws, especially as they pertain to cannabis. Luxembourg lawmakers are still crafting legislation to legalize the production and consumption of cannabis, but they plan to release a draft version later this year.
Luxembourg Confirms Plans to Legalize Cannabis
Details are only beginning to emerge about how Luxembourg plans to implement legal cannabis. Nothing regarding tax rates or regulations on the types and forms of cannabis that will be legal has been set in stone. However, early reports indicate that the EU nation is taking its cue from Canada and will cap legal possession at 30 grams. Luxembourg also plans to invest tax and licensing revenue into drug education and addiction treatment programs. Last year, Schneider and Luxembourg Justice Minister Félix Braz toured a cultivation facility run by Canopy Growth Corporation in Smith Falls, Canada.
Indeed, once Luxembourg legalizes cannabis, it will become the first EU nation and just the third country in the world to do so, next to Canada and Uruguay. Contrary to popular conception, the Netherlands, home to Amsterdam’s famed cannabis cafés, is not a legal-cannabis country. Rather, it operates under an official policy of tolerance toward recreational use within certain limits. It’s a stance that has made the Netherlands a top destination for cannabis tourism. But for now at least, Luxembourg isn’t keen on making its cities hot-spots for cannabis consumers from around the world.
Health Minister Urges More Open-Minded Attitude Toward Drugs
Health Minister Schneider says prohibiting cannabis has both failed to stop or reduce consumption and made marijuana more attractive to young people. “The drug policy we had over the last 50 years did not work,” Schneider told Politico. “Forbidding everything made it just more interesting to young people.”
And as Luxembourg gears up to end its prohibition on recreational cannabis, state officials are encouraging other EU nations to follow suit. “I’m hoping all of us will get a more open-minded attitude toward drugs,” Schneider added. That open-mindedness will be important, especially since legal cannabis will put Luxembourg on the wrong side of a UN convention limiting cannabis commerce to medical and scientific purposes only.
But the major question is precisely how open and accessible Luxembourg’s legal cannabis market will be. According to Schneider, Luxembourg will likely ban non-residents from legal access to cannabis, with the aim being to discourage cannabis tourism. The law could also prohibit home cultivation, leaving state-run agencies to exclusively regulate production and distribution. A draft version of the legislation is expected later this year, and early estimates forecast sales will come online within two years, although an earlier agreement between a coalition of Liberals, Social Democrats and Greens set up a five year timetable.