Last month the tiny landlocked country Luxembourg announced it would be the first EU country to potentially legalise cannabis in the near future.
It was a bold statement by the country
with a population of just 590,000, but it demonstrates that the warming of
opinions on cannabis is not restricted to North America.
The local government reached the
consensus that cannabis prohibition has so far failed to achieve its
objectives, particularly on the topics of cultivation, trafficking and use
among the citizens.
Etienne Schneider, Luxembourg’s health
that “this drug policy we had over the last 50 years did not work”.
As a result, they plan to legally regulate
the production of cannabis while also legalising consumption.
If this budding plan comes into
fruition, Luxembourg will be added to a growing list of countries alongside
Canada and 11 States in the US that have begun re-evalutating archaic drugs policies
in which substances were banned and people deemed criminals and locked up for
Luxembourg already benefits from the use of medical cannabis and has decriminalised small quantities of weed for personal recreational use so it seems the next logical step is for the country to continue making efforts towards complete legalisation of the plant.
While it may not seem like a big deal
given Luxembourg’s lack of numbers and powerful political presence, it serves
as a huge example to other European countries that may also consider weed
prohibition being a failed project.
As cannabis is more prevalent, potent
and consumed than any other drug in Europe, Luxembourg paving the way in
legally regulating and consuming weed sets a high bar for the rest of the EU,
where approximately three
million people use cannabis.
Although cultivation, supply and
possession of cannabis are still criminal offences in the Netherlands, a softer
approach to the plant evolved into the coffeeshop concept
where cannabis sales are legalised and licensed by individual districts.
Initially set up to tempt young people
away from experimenting with harder drugs, an evaluation
of the Netherlands drug situation in 2009 found that users of cannabis were
utilising coffeeshops as their main source of weed and the soft and hard drugs
market remained separate entities, demonstrating that legalisation and
regulation can work.
Similarly, although not tolerated by
government authorities, countries such as Spain, Belgium, Germany and even the
UK have recently been host to secret ‘cannabis clubs’, operating on the
assumption that if one person can get away with cultivating one cannabis plant
for individual use, then multiple people should not get prosecuted for
cultivating multiple plants together for their own use.
These hazy business-ventures seem to be inevitably emerging regardless of the legalities of cannabis use, production and possession in the respective countries, it seems almost rational that governments should utilise them and potentially take control and make their own profit from them to benefit the wider society.
Portugal also decided to decriminalise
all drug use a few years ago in 2001, with drug use, crime and drug-related
illnesses falling dramatically since then and the predicted scare stories of an
entire country consumed by drugs failed to transpire.
The decriminalisation in Portugal
actually saw a reduction
in drug arrests, reduced from 14,000 in 2000 to around 5,500 per year after the
new laws were introduced in 2001, freeing up vital police resources in order to
focus on violent crimes instead.
In countries like the UK, Germany and
France, drug-related crime has actually risen exponentially despite the
seemingly stricter laws.
Crime on the rise
In the UK there has been a worrying
increase in stabbings in London, with much of that is to do with the drugs
trade, where one of the most popular drugs sold on the street is still
After three murders in the space of 24 hours
including two teenagers, a local resident describing the ‘gang-related’ crime
in the area explained
that “there’s more knife crime, more drugs” and another bystander stated that “there
are drug dealers everywhere – you see them all the time” after admitting he now
walks a different route home.
Individuals who want to use cannabis
will do so regardless of the laws, and such people are already purchasing their
weed on the black market and subsequently coming into contact with drug dealers
who may be violent people and offer low quality buds with the potential to
offer your everyday stoner more harmful drugs later on.
If the UK was to follow in Luxembourgs
footsteps, taking the cultivation and sale of cannabis out of the hands of the
criminal underworld and back into the government’s control where it could be
regulated and taxed, this could consequentially alleviate a myriad of various
issues and add a monumental amount of money to the economy.
Prisons across Europe are full of weed
offenders, the majority of those are non-violent individuals and in 2017, there
were 440,000 seizures
of cannabis in the EU, amounting to 40% of the total number of drug seizures in
the EU that year, with potency and price soaring each year from 2006-2016.
In seven years from 2010 to 2017 in the UK, cannabis warnings, cautions and prosecutions have reduced significantly despite usage continuing to increase, dropping from just over 80,000 police issued warnings in 2010 to around 30,000 in 2017.
A recent parliament motion on cannabis
legislation was tabled in 2018, where it was stated that the House of Commons
believes that “the War on Drugs and the prohibition of cannabis has been a
calamitous failure; recognises the dreadful social costs of the illegal
cannabis market, including extreme violence in our communities, the
accumulation of wealth by criminals gangs”.
They also highlighted the issues of “the
health risks posed by the absence of any framework to regulate the safety or
potency of these drugs; notes that banning cannabis does not reduce levels of
drug use or drug-related harm, but unfairly stigmatises and criminalises young
people who are doing no harm to others whilst tying up police resources which
could be better used tackling harmful crimes”.
The hope among cannabis enthusiasts now is that the high pressure of a forward-thinking country such as Luxembourg turning to legalisation will spur on other EU member states to discuss the issue in a serious manner and even consider making a similar move.