Marijuana is just as popular in Europe as in the rest of the world. Studies into marijuana use in Europe show that as many as 1 in 8 young Europeans used pot in the past year, and an estimated 1% of the population are regular users.
Although the European Union (EU) has made many European laws more uniform, this does not apply to the laws on cannabis. These rules can be very different from one country to the next, even in places which are geographically and culturally close.
For example, you are not likely to be punished for minor possession in many countries including Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Latvia, Belgium, and the Czech Republic. On the other hand, some of the countries with the harshest drug laws in Europe include Greece, Cyprus, Hungary, Sweden, and Finland. In these countries, all drug use is considered a criminal offense and may lead to prison time.
To clear things up, let’s take a joint-fuelled journey through Europe, looking at some major countries and their cannabis laws.
Marijuana Laws in the Netherlands
If one European country is frequently associated with marijuana, it has to be the Netherlands. Although not fully legalized, marijuana use is decriminalized in the Netherlands, meaning that you can only be prosecuted under certain circumstances.
Since the 1970s, coffee shops in the Netherlands have been allowed to sell weed to customers under strict conditions. These conditions include not selling alcohol or hard drugs, not causing a nuisance, not advertising the sale of cannabis, and not selling more than 5g of weed to any individual at one time.
In 2013, the Dutch government implemented a law stating that only Dutch nationals could purchase marijuana in coffee shops. This change in the law was an attempt to cut down on public nuisance caused by marijuana tourism. Since then, coffee shop owners have been required to see identification before selling their products, but in reality, do not always put these checks into practice.
Even Dutch nationals do not get a completely free pass when it comes to marijuana. The police have the power to seize any cannabis in their possession and could choose to prosecute anybody found with more than 5g.
Marijuana Laws in Portugal
Another country with relatively liberal drug laws is Portugal. Here, all narcotics including cannabis are decriminalized, and rehabilitation is preferable to prosecution in most cases. Those caught with small amounts of marijuana may have to face a “commission for dissuasion of drug addiction,” a panel made up of three members of the legal, medical, and social care professions. There may also be a fine for repeat offenders.
Despite this more relaxed law on cannabis consumption in Portugal, cultivation is completely illegal and could be punishable by imprisonment.
Marijuana Laws in Spain
The drug laws in neighboring Spain are somewhat more complicated. Public cannabis consumption is considered a “serious order offense” and could lead to a hefty fine of between 601 and 30,000 Euros.
The purpose of using medical marijuana is to alleviate symptoms (such as pain) of a health condition rather than to get high.
Even though daily use may be required, there may be long-term negative health effects, and use may appear compulsive, the use of medical marijuana according to prescribed protocols would be categorized as unproblematic marijuana use rather than misuse or addiction.