Looking back on the trajectory of reform in Europe from the vantage point of 2032, a decade from now, this year, and particularly the spring and summer of 2022, will almost certainly be recognized as the European-wide tipping point for cannabis.
This is largely being driven by current events in Germany. The government just wrapped up several weeks of hearings on how to implement recreational reform. A white paper containing the recommendations of the same will be released in the fall, with draft legislation expected to be published by the end of the year. Beyond that, the timing is understandably a bit hazy, but the bill is widely expected to pass in the early part of 2023, with a recreational market on track to begin by the first part of 2024.
However, Germany is not the only game in town, as much as its impact on the conversation across the E.U. is huge.
The Domino Countries
There are currently several E.U. countries on the verge of recreational reform that stand poised to follow Malta into recreational reform this year by legalizing home grow. These are:
Switzerland – The country is launching its recreational use city trials this year. While outside of the E.U., the country’s forward progress on recreational reform is one of the key markets to watch in Europe right now.
Portugal – Now established as one of the most important medical cultivation countries in Europe, the country is on the verge of formal recreational reform—and will proceed with home grow as a first step to creating a fully integrated recreational market with international juice. Portugal also has the distinction of being the most liberal country on drug policies across the E.U.
Luxembourg – The country’s current government promised to implement recreational reform before the end of their first term (which ends next year). Medical reform was implemented during 2018. Currently, the first step into the adult use market will be home grow also, although given the size of the country, it most likely won’t be a large producer.
Austria – The country will certainly follow its DACH trading partners—Germany and Switzerland—across the recreational line in the near future. Medical reform has already been implemented here and the country as a strong hemp industry.
Medical Reform Is Still in Motion
Adult use reform of course is not the only discussion in the room. Medical reform has also been moving forward in important jurisdictions this year—leaving no major country within the region that does not recognize at least medical efficacy of the plant. Even Albania, in accession talks with the E.U., is moving ahead with medical use.
France – The country formally (and finally) moved forward on a pending medical trial earlier this year. The jury is still out on whether the country’s president Emmanuel Macron, will be pushed by his more liberal government to move forward on some kind of recreational discussion. As the cradle of hemp production in Europe, the country has also been the testing ground for changing CBD policy across the E.U.
Spain – The home of the cannabis club announced their recognition of medical efficacy this summer. This is significant for several reasons, including the fact that Spain is also apparently ramping up its medical cultivation while allowing the clubs to continue to operate.
As a result, Europe is very much having its “2012” moment. By 2024, it is almost certain at this point that there will be, beyond Holland, several European countries where recreational cannabis is legal.
The Global Impact of European Reform
While it is still hard to predict accurately, make no mistake about it: This change is seismic, worth a great deal of money, and will have huge repercussions.
It is unlikely that in the U.S., for example, serious arguments will hold much longer against finally legalizing cannabis on a federal level.
Beyond this, it is almost certain that multiple countries in Asia will follow both events in the E.U. as well as Thailand and probably Indonesia’s early lead. Even if this change is also “only” medical for now, as has been seen worldwide at this point, this is only the first step.
From this vantage point, it is also not hard to envisage a world where the plant is finally, formally recognized, and at an international level.
Does This Mean Smooth Sailing from Here?
Just because legalization is moving however, does not mean there will be no detours much less distractions. This starts with a domestic rollout of reform, which on the recreational front will almost certainly also include some states, cities, and towns also placing a ban on sales.
The discussion about tourism is also much in the balance as Holland continues to make noise about banning cannatourists from Amsterdam. However, it is hard to believe that this will last, even in Holland. Greece, for example, which is already inviting German pensioners to spend a warm winter away from higher gas prices and lower temperatures, will ignore this valuable segment of the market.
On the regulatory front, Novel Food looms as a large and unsolved problem—and not just for CBD but also the full plant discussion.
All of these issues will take time and money to resolve. However, the most important step has clearly been taken in Europe this summer—and that will reverberate in turn, as perhaps the last major push necessary for the final dominoes to begin falling. Regionally and, of course, globally.
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