Austria Needs to Modernize Its Cannabis Policies

Germany shares more borders with other countries than any other nation in the European Union. Germany, which recently legalized cannabis for adult use, shares borders with Austria, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, France, Luxembourg, Denmark, Poland, Switzerland, and Belgium.

Every one of those countries is presumably re-evaluating its own cannabis policies now that Germany has legalized cannabis. Lawmakers in the Czech Republic had previously indicated that it would follow Germany’s lead and pursue adult-use reform. Unfortunately, Austria is one of Germany’s neighbors that is taking a different approach.

Rather than get on the right side of history and end cannabis prohibition enforcement against personal consumers, Austria’s government is reportedly ramping up its efforts to enforce cannabis prohibition at checkpoints along its border with Germany.

On April 1, 2024, Germany’s cannabis laws changed from prohibiting cannabis for recreational use to permitting adults to cultivate, possess, and consume cannabis. People 18 years old and older are allowed to cultivate up to three plants in a private residence and possess up to 25 grams of cannabis in Germany. Selling cannabis to other consumers remains prohibited, as does public cannabis use.

In reaction to Germany’s policy change, Austria is planning to institute a heightened focus on cannabis prohibition enforcement at checkpoints along the Austria-Germany border.

“The police will conduct intensified checks, particularly in areas near the border, to take addictive substances and drivers under the influence of drugs out of circulation,” Interior Minister Gerhard Karner said in a statement according to the Associated Press. “This is about the protection of all road users.”

Minister Karner also indicated that law enforcement officers in ‘plain clothes’ and impairment recognition specialists from regional transport departments will be deployed at checkpoint areas as part of the stepped-up enforcement effort.

If history is any guide, clinging to prohibition is going to continue to be a failed strategy in Austria. To be clear, no responsible cannabis consumer is encouraging anyone to drive impaired, nor is anyone recommending that consumers try to smuggle banned substances across borders.

What reasonable, sensible people are recommending is that Austria remove consumers’ incentive to seek cannabis from unregulated sources, whether it be from inside or outside of Austria, by modernizing the nation’s cannabis policies to permit adult-use cannabis activities.

Cannabis is now legal to cultivate in Malta, Luxembourg, and Germany, as well as in Uruguay, Canada, and many parts of the United States. Court decisions in Mexico, Italy, and South Africa also provide some level of protection for personal cultivation.

In addition to private cultivation, Germany will soon permit noncommercial cannabis clubs to operate, similar to what is already in place in Uruguay and Malta. Germany will also eventually launch regional adult-use cannabis commerce pilot programs, similar to what is already operating in Switzerland and the Netherlands, but presumably on a much larger scale.

Momentum for reform is picking up in many parts of the globe, with Europe being particularly active. The writing is on the wall for cannabis prohibition on the European continent, and Austria would be wise to modernize its cannabis policies and then re-allocate public resources that are currently directed towards enforcing failed prohibition.

This article first appeared on and is syndicated here with special permission.


  • Johnny Green is the Media and Content Director for the International Cannabis Business Conference and has blogged about cannabis since January 2010.

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