Many cannabis enthusiasts long for legal cannabis sales when living in an area where prohibition still reigns. Having recently moved from Oregon, a legal U.S. state, to Slovenia, a country that still prohibits adult-use cannabis, I know it’s something I think about often.
One thing that does not seem to be on many cannabis advocates’ radars is how cannabis will be sold once it’s legal. In North America, particularly in Canada, there are a wide range of options, including home delivery.
However, Europe is likely to be a different matter, largely due to continental agreements prohibiting full national adult-use sales. Medical cannabis is already widely distributed around Europe, as are low-THC cannabis products, often referred to as “cannabis light.” CBD-focused products are also common in many European countries.
Malta was the first European nation to pass a national adult-use cannabis measure. Unfortunately, retail sales are still prohibited, and the only way for consumers to source their legal cannabis is through home cultivation or a noncommercial cannabis club. Club licenses are being approved, although red tape is causing launch delays.
Luxembourg was the second European nation to pass an adult-use law. However, sales and noncommercial cannabis clubs are still prohibited. That leaves home cultivation as the only path to acquire legal cannabis.
The metaphorical cannabis reform elephant in the European room continues to be Germany, which continues its quest to pass a national adult-use legalization measure. Unlike Malta and Luxembourg, Germany’s eventual model will likely become the blueprint other European nations will mimic.
Germany’s legalization effort is being rolled out in multiple phases. The first phase involves legalizing personal cultivation, possession, and use. Regulated and noncommercial cannabis clubs will be in the first phase.
The second phase of Germany’s legalization model will focus on the launch of regional adult-use cannabis commerce pilot programs. Regional adult-use cannabis commerce pilot programs are already in operation in Switzerland and are used for research purposes. The limited programs help gather data at the local level to help policymakers craft national policies.
Germany’s pilot programs are expected to be far more widespread than what is in place in Switzerland and will serve as the main way that many consumers in Germany legally obtain their cannabis until national sales are permitted. Domestic lawmakers in Germany are considering changes to the already approved legalization measure. Those changes could create a showdown between the European Union and Europe’s largest economy.
It’s a safe bet that what is ultimately adopted in Germany will serve as the model for its continental peers. Germany is doing much of the heavy lifting to get the EU on board with national sales. Once that happens, Europe’s adult-use retail model will finally offer all of the freedoms that many consumers are already experiencing in Uruguay, Canada, and the United States.
This article first appeared in Volume 5 Issue 3 of Cannabis & Tech Today. Read the full issue here.