There is a very funny thing about the European cannabis discussion right now, particularly as the news of the German decision to proceed with recreational reform has emerged with the formal creation of the next coalition government. Namely that promising reform while entering power is fairly popular, if not an inevitable development at this point, nobody really wants to go first.
That honor, so far, within Europe (beyond Holland) will almost certainly go to the Swiss, who are powering forward with the nitty gritty details required to create a new market as of next year. However, Switzerland is famously not in the European Union. And within such countries, no politician, at least until the German decision to proceed with recreational, has quite known how to frame such forward progress in formal statutes.
That reality has been made even more clear during the last week as Luxembourg’s government, which promised as part of its platform in 2018 that it would legalize recreational use by 2023, has just taken a rather large sidestep. Namely, the country’s first foray into this discussion will be in fact just to allow adults the right to self-cultivate four plants.
For all the hullabaloo, in other words, this is a dramatic twist if not anti-climatic development in a situation now fraught with the inevitability of reform (even if not in Luxembourg first).
Luxembourg: The First Baby Steps
What is so ironic about all of this is the fact that for the past three years, officials in Luxembourg have made it very public that they were “studying” the Canadian model. What has developed is actually far more like the Dutch (at least so far) if not the evolving situation in other European countries (see Malta, which allowed home-grow this year and appears to be actually on the verge of greater reform by the end of the year, not to mention Italy, which appears to be backing into the same thing).
This is what the government is prepared to regulate: the seed market. Plants grown in private homes, away from sight and out of reach of minors, will have to be grown from either seeds purchased domestically (in either brick-and-mortar establishments or online), or even from abroad (see Holland, for starters).
In the meantime, there will be a plan produced for the national production of seeds for commercial uses. This presumably is the next step the Luxembourgians see the market evolving into as Germany now presumably takes the lead on setting policies that will probably be copied across Europe.
The legislation also proposes decriminalizing the possession of up to three grams of flower if caught in public, with perpetrators punished with a fine that is like those for tobacco transgressions.
Of course, this development is also a bit more than a face-saving move. The country is moving, even if slowly, towards full cannabis reform. In the meantime, Luxembourg will be creating a longer-term infrastructure for a commercial market to begin. Not to mention offsetting the huge outlay of government funds for medical cannabis, which as of this year was going for 100 euros a gram (wholesale).
What Is Likely to Happen
While this is pure conjecture at this point, the interesting thing about the Luxembourgian development is that it may end up being very much like a mix of the Swiss and German markets. The Swiss made the sale of CBD plants legal, which in turn set off a cottage industry post 2017, which in turn has clearly created a basis for the recreational market now set to launch in the first half of 2022.
The Swiss also appear to be creating, deliberately, a domestic market for the sourcing of all cannabis for this new domestic market. Indeed, all cannabis bound for this national trial must be sourced within Switzerland’s borders.
It is very likely that the market in Luxembourg will eventually be similar. This way, it also keeps the discussion about the cannabis tourist trade in limbo, at least until someone else beyond the Dutch addresses it. Indeed, there is a lingering stigma in Holland about pot tourism that continues to rear its head in Luxembourg too, even as this is also an obvious way to repair COVID-induced damage to this sector of every European economy right now.
No matter what, however, it is clear that no country’s politicians in Europe, particularly if they come to power with a pro-cannabis plank, can entirely duck the conversation.
Luxembourg, however, is not going to be “first” within the EU, much less Europe. That distinction, as of the recent news revealed, will almost certainly be the Swiss and the Germans.