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The State of Legal Cannabis in the European Union

european union flag with marijuana leaf

It may not seem like it, but several prominent European countries are beginning to change their tunes, as far as cannabis is concerned. For example, Italy continues to rake in profits from hemp, and hemp byproducts, since it’s legalization a couple of years ago now.

Also, not only has Greece officially granted its first licenses for the cultivation and processing of cannabis, but Luxembourg has also recently legalized recreational pot. Looking around, it’s not hard to see that the European Union is absolutely following suit to the United States’ growing cannabis industry. In other words, Europe could soon see a complete turn around in its medical cannabis. So, for those who reside in the E.U., it’s a really big deal. However, it’s not all flowers and rainbows either. The main fear people have is that lawmakers and medical corporations alike will give more focus to profit than to the herbs medicinal values.

In a recent industry report, major cannabis producers and mega-pharmaceutical companies have already claimed up to €55 billion worth of the market up until 2028. For the citizens of the E.U., this means that lawmakers and corporations could slow the process tremendously if they aren’t careful.

At the present time there is no standard in the European Union as far as medical or recreational cannabis is concerned. For example, medical pot is legal in Slovenia but is not in the bordering Republic of Croatia. Likewise, in France, medical cannabis is non-existent, while residents of Germany can simply head to the doctor for a zip prescription bud anytime they please. The European market is fragmented. Each country sets its own standards and regulations for cannabis products, meaning Germans can get a prescription for medical cannabis from a doctor, while the French have no legal medical cannabis options at all.

Unfortunately, as positive as some aspects of the cannabis industry may be looking for the E.U., the European Union themselves aren’t doing much of anything to make clear their plans for the future. Based on statements from an official with the European Commission’s Migration and Home Affairs Department, Peter Mihok, the E.U.’s only obligation is to support each union member’s independent decisions on medical cannabis in their country. At this point, it seems apparent that there will be no push to legalize cannabis, in any form, from the European Union. However, it’s equally clear that they have no intentions of interfering with nations that choose to legalize the herb, whether for medicinal or recreational purposes.

The patients’ perspective

In many regions of the European Union, chronic pain patients taking unhealthy amounts of opiates have been able to replace the harsh pain-killers with CBD, both in oils and pills. With the rise of legalization, coupled with modern technology, we’re now beginning to understand some of the medicinal uses for cannabis. For example, there are dozens and dozens of cannabinoids, which are unique compounds, found in the plant. Of course, the most well-known from these compounds is the world-famous and euphoric tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC.

The corporate perspective

In the European Union, potential patients aren’t the only ones waiting to get their hands on medical cannabis. Big businesses are drooling and chomping at the bit while lobbying lawmakers all over Europe to get their products approved for market. One of the most significant of these well-voiced concerns is that cannabis, which is untested, may pass into the hands of patients and consumers containing pesticides and other toxins. All of which are very real concerns, no doubt. However, only time will tell which producers and corporations that lawmakers will back across the EU.

On another front, smaller cannabis outfits in Europe aren’t so happy about big pharma and big business turning their interests towards the industry. For example, The European Industrial Hemp Association has stated that it strongly opposes the pharmaceutical industries intention of turning CBD into prescription medication. As with most politics, there is more than one side to the  story, and more than one answer as well.. However, in the European Union, even a blind man could see that cannabis isn’t going away anytime soon. What isn’t so clear is how lawmakers will decide to handle regulating it.

This past summer the European Parliament’s Environment, Public, Health, and Food Safety Committee asked the European Commission to put together union-wide regulations concerning medical cannabis in Europe. These proposed guidelines would cover everything from cultivation to post-production and taxes. Since then, numerous multi-million dollar firms, including Canopy Growth, have gone public stating their opinions on the matters loud and clear. Canopy Growth has been transparent with their intentions to set up shop and dominate the cannabis trade in Europe, investing over €100 million in European production facilities.

Meanwhile, lawmakers and political leaders from around Europe continue to debate on simple aspects of the issue, such as whether their resolution should be for medical cannabis itself or just medicines containing cannabis as an ingredient.

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