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Monday April 4, 2022

By Erin Hiatt

Tourist woman, with a camera around her neck, on an adventure for cannabis, about to open the door to a white dispensary with a weed sign out front Travel

Imagine, if you will, a post-COVID world where you can dust off your passport and travel to your preferred European destination without worry - Paris, London, Barcelona, Rome - to people watch, shoo pigeons away from the statuary, and kick back with a big fat joint that you buy from a local, legal purveyor.

“What about Amsterdam!?” your brain might be shouting. Not to be the bearer of bad news, but not so fast. “Everyone I know has bought weed in Amsterdam!” Yes, it’s true - you can buy weed in Amsterdam, but it’s not exactly legal. It’s more accurate to describe cannabis in the Netherlands as an industry essentially ignored by law enforcement, as Dutch policymakers long ago decided to focus their drug policy and enforcement on “hard drugs” like heroin.

Amsterdam is only one example of marijuana policy in Europe. Much like the U.S., cannabis law is specific to a country or even a city. So, what’s going on? Is marijuana legal in Europe? Let’s dig in!

Cannabis Legalization Status Within European Countries

Last October, Germany’s new government got advocates and consumers buzzing (so to speak) by announcing that they intended to make cannabis legal in Germany within the next two years.

Though no legal adult-use cannabis laws yet exist, some companies are already setting up shop in anticipation of a legal market. Currently, medical marijuana is legal in Germany and consumption is largely decriminalized.

Pot leaf resting on top of a lot of colorful European cash and coins
Legal and decriminalized cannabis in Europe continues to spread photo credit

Most of Europe follows the German model, where medical marijuana is legal and its consumption and possession (within reason) decriminalized. Britain, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, and Denmark are among the countries that follow this pattern. There are a few holdouts like Bulgaria, Kosovo, Serbia, Slovakia, Hungary, and Montenegro where cannabis remains completely illegal and criminalized.

Then there are some like France, Austria, and Belgium that settle in between the two by allowing for some medical marijuana treatments like Sativex, a cannabis-derived medicine intended to be used for the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis.

If you’re looking for a European country where weed is legal, you’ll have to head to Malta, a tiny island in the Mediterranean 50 miles south of Italy. Last December, Marijuana Moment reported, “Just days after Malta’s Parliament approved a bill to legalize marijuana, President George Vella signed the legislation into law,” making Malta the first European country to legalize weed.

However, Malta won’t have a legal recreational market like those in U.S. markets like California, Colorado, Nevada, or Washington. In Malta, adults 18 and older can possess up to seven grams of cannabis and cultivate up to four plants, and residents can participate in the legal market by joining nonprofit co-ops that can grow and distribute to members.

View from the cove of Malta with a beach below and European houses with terraced balconies
Imagine smoking a legal joint with this view at this beach cove in Malta photo credit

The Malta model will be familiar if you happen to be a cannabis consumer in Barcelona, Spain. Though adult-use weed remains illegal in the country, members of Barcelona cannabis clubs can purchase cannabis at specific locations, though only Spanish citizens are allowed to become members. Also, Italy itself has made progressive movement on legalization, where it was recently ruled that small-scale personal cultivation is not against the law. However, possession itself is only decriminalized.

Final Thoughts

If German lawmakers follow-through on their promise to legalize adult-use cannabis in the next couple of years, will other European countries follow suit? Sans reliable tea leaves, it’s hard to predict. We do know that Europeans like cannabis a lot, especially in France, Spain, and Italy, where about 11 percent of people consume the herb. But whether that enthusiasm will translate into legal markets is up in the air.

If travel abroad is in your future, we strongly recommend investigating local weed laws before trying to obtain, possess or consume cannabis while visiting any foreign country.

Share your own cannabis experiences when you traveled abroad in the comments below!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


Erin Hiatt Erin Hiatt

Erin Hiatt is a New York City-based writer who has been covering the cannabis industry for more than six years. Her work - which has appeared in Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, PotGuide, Civilized, Vice, Freedom Leaf, MERRY JANE, Alternet, and CannaInvestor - covers a broad range of topics, including cannabis policy and law, CBD, hemp law and applications, science and technology, beauty, and psychedelics.

Erin's work and industry insights have been featured on the podcasts The Let's Go Eat Show, In the Know 420, and she has appeared as a featured panelist on the topic of hemp media. Erin has interviewed top industry experts such as Dr. Carl Hart, Ethan Nadelmann, Amanda Feilding, Mark A.R. Kleiman, Dr. James Fadiman, and culture icons Governor Jesse Ventura, and author Tom Robbins. You can follow her work on LinkedInWordpress, @erinhiatt on Twitter, and @erinisred on Instagram.

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