Luxembourg Set to Become Europe’s First Recreational Cannabis Country
Government ministers in Luxembourg have outlined proposals for the country’s future legal cannabis model, following a fact-finding mission to Canada.
Luxembourg legalized medical cannabis in the summer of 2018 and following a general election that autumn the country’s coalition government also committed to legalizing recreational cannabis during its next term in power.
As a part of developing the country’s future cannabis policy, Luxembourg’s Health Minister Étienne Schneider and Justice Minister Félix Braz travelled to Canada in mid-May to learn more about the practicalities of legalizing the drug. The ministers visited both the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and the Canadian Institutes of Health and took part in discussions with representatives from a number of Canadian government departments responsible for overseeing the country’s legal cannabis market.
Now, on their return to Luxembourg, Minister Schneider and Minister Braz have revealed the country’s preliminary plans for legalization.
The ministers stated that they want to enact cannabis law that strongly focuses on protecting public health, taking inspiration from the similar public health approach in Canada. Their current plan would allow adults over the age of 18 to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis, though minors aged between 12 and 17 would not be criminalized for possessing 5 grams or less of the drug.
The ministers did not elaborate on what the criminal penalties may be for minors or adults who possess more than these limits. But they did clarify that they intend to put in place “even harsher penalties than now” for those who skirt the new cannabis laws.
The government also wants to put in place a cap on the potency of the cannabis that would be available legally in the country, though this limit has yet to be fixed. According to the Luxembourg Times, cannabis sold on the country’s black market can sometimes reach up to 60 percent THC content by weight.
Additionally, the ministers plan to restrict the purchase of cannabis to residents. This follows the voicing of concerns from neighboring France and Germany that the wider legalization of cannabis in Luxembourg could lead to drug trafficking problems in their own countries. In Canada there is no residency requirement to purchase cannabis but taking the drug across the US border is illegal.
Importing cannabis across the border into the likes of France and Germany would still be illegal, but border checks between Luxembourg and its neighbors are extremely uncommon because of the European “Schengen Area,” which guarantees free movement between internal EU countries. The proposed residency requirement is an additional measure to prevent Luxembourg cannabis from crossing the border, and to prevent “cannabis tourism.”
The ministers are reportedly aiming to present a preliminary concept bill for cannabis legalization by next autumn, though there is no similar projection for when the bill might be introduced to parliament. It is still the aim of the government to bring into force cannabis legalization legislation during this term, which ends in 2023.
“We can learn from other countries' experiences and avoid mistakes [in Luxembourg] from the outset,” explained the ministers in their official report following their trip to Canada. Before drafting the preliminary concept bill, the ministers also intended to analyze the cannabis legalization strategy in Uruguay and the decriminalization efforts in Portugal and the Netherlands for any other useful proposals.
If no other European country moves to legalize cannabis soon, Luxembourg will become the first European country to formally legalize the drug for recreational use in Europe. The Luxembourg government believes that legalization of the drug would protect public health more effectively than decriminalization, as legalization would help to stifle the country’s illegal cannabis market. Legalization and the development of a regulated cannabis industry would also result in the generation of extra tax revenue, which Ministers Schneider and Braz want to see reinvested in drug education and addiction treatment programs in the country.
Recreational cannabis legalization would be the latest of several major changes in drug policy for Luxembourg. As well as legalizing medical cannabis last year, the country has also recently opened two operational “safer drug consumption rooms” where drug users can self-administer illicit drugs in a safe and hygienic environment. The harm reduction facilities ensure that drug users are monitored by medical staff who can prevent overdose or risky drug administration behaviors and provide emergency medical care swiftly if needed.