The Great European Cannabis Stutter: Delays on Reform Announced from Germany to Portugal and the Czech Republic

From the Czech Republic to Portugal, European countries are certainly following Germany’s lead on cannabis reform – but right now that appears to be just circling in place

There are always moments in time when pivotal events occur in a brief period of time and as a result, effect other things, like dominoes toppling. That was the dream of many in the cannabis community this spring, at least before the end of March, when Germany unequivocally stated that its probable (and largely unsurprising) path to recreational cannabis reform is going to look more like Switzerland and less like Canada for the next half decade.

That announcement – still pending – is much more likely to create a largely non-profit interim, wherein the plant is finally decriminalized, limited home grow is permitted, and cannabis clubs are allowed to operate legally. In turn however, Germany’s delay has also, equally unsurprisingly, appeared to roll forward through pending policy in several influential places subsequently.

Its not like there won’t be knock on effects of Germany’s decision. They are just less likely to directly trigger full recreational cannabis markets all over Europe. And go far further than just banning tourists from smoking weed in the streets of Amsterdam’s Red Light District.

Uncertain Steps Forward (and backwards) in Czech Republic

This includes the Czech Republic, where last week, the Czech Minister of Agriculture, citing “EU policy” on the same, announced a ban on both the sales and marketing of CBD and other non-psychoactive cannabinoids to begin in June. The reason? The now stalled for almost a year decision on Novel Food and CBD at the EU level.

This domestic wrinkle appears to be a snap decision that left advocates on the ground in surprise, particularly given all the good news emanating from the same environment about the supposed movement in the CR to legalize recreational cannabis come hell or high water. Or maybe that was just the overhyping of the pace of reform (yet again) by a less than connected or knowledgeable source or three?”

What is very likely, however, is that the CR will follow whatever advance Germany announces in the next weeks. Namely, as widely discussed and debated in the chattering circles and conventional canna wisdom in Berlin, decrim, homegrow and non-commercial social clubs.

Portugal Punts Again

Even less surprising than this domestic development, however, which also weirdly takes a page out of the German book too (see the Federal Court decision banning the sale of even low THC hemp flowers last December), is the international development out of Portugal. Namely, the Portuguese Liberal Initiative Party’s legalization bill stalled almost as soon as it was introduced. The country has been on the “brink” of this discussion now for at least several years.

Like the CR, there is little chance of a domestic bill that flies in the face of EU law. That genie is out of the bottle now, just like Novel Food, and there is little chance an EU country will rock the alliance’s boat over cannabinoids.

Was Kommt Nachste?

As the Germans would say, this is going to be a schritt-für-schritt (step-by-step) process. Nobody really knows for sure except those drafting the provisions right now in the Bundestag, what the actual next step of German (and as a result of that downstream) other cannabis reform will be this year.

What is for certain however, is that just like spring, cannabis reform is clearly in the air. And even if this year’s excitement fades for its annual retreat later in the year, so far, it’s gotten further than it has before.

And that, no matter where one sits in this discussion, in whatever country, or in whatever part of the industry, is good May Day news indeed.


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