Health minister confirms plans and calls on neighbouring countries to relax their laws
Daniel Boffey in Brussels
Wed 7 Aug 2019
Luxembourg has called on its EU neighbours to relax their drug laws as its health
minister confirmed plans to become the first European country to
legalise cannabis production and consumption.
“This drug policy we had over the last 50 years did not work,”
Etienne Schneider told Politico. “Forbidding everything made it just
more interesting to young people … I’m hoping all of us will get a more
open-minded attitude toward drugs.”
Residents over the age of 18 are expected to be able to buy the drug
for recreational use legally within two years. The state will regulate
production and distribution through a cannabis agency.
Draft legislation is expected to be unveiled later this year
providing further detail on the types of cannabis that will be on sale
and the level of tax that will be imposed.
Schneider said the legislation was likely to include a ban on non-residents buying cannabis in order to dissuade drug-tourism. Home-growing is also likely to be prohibited. X
Minors aged between 12 and 17 would not be criminalised for
possessing five grams or less of the drug, but those who break the more
generous laws will be hit with harsh penalties under the plan.
Schneider said he was keen to encourage other EU countries to follow Luxembourg’s path.
A government coalition agreement between the Liberals, the Social
Democrats and the Greens provides for legalisation within five years.
If put into action, Luxembourg would join Canada, Uruguay and eleven
US states in flouting a UN convention on the control of narcotic drugs
which commits signatories to limit “exclusively for medical and
scientific purposes the production, manufacture, export, import
distribution, trade, employment and possession of drugs” including
Luxembourg has already legalised the use of cannabis for medicinal
purposes. Possession of small amounts for recreational use has also been
decriminalised, but its purchase, sale and production remains illegal.
Schneider and Luxembourg’s justice minister, Félix Braz, visited a
greenhouse in Smith Falls, Canada, last year to witness the mass
production of cannabis by the Canopy Growth Corporation.
Uruguay became the world’s first country to create a legal national marijuana marketplace when it legalised the drug in 2013, and Canada followed suit in 2018.
Canadians are able to order marijuana products on websites run by
provinces or regulated private retailers and have it delivered to their
homes by post.
Luxembourg will follow Canada in legalising the possession of 30
grams of cannabis. Tax revenues will be reinvested in drug education and
addiction treatment programmes.
Two representatives of the Consumer Choice Centre, a US-based NGO,
travelled to Luxembourg in April to offer their advice on legislation.
One area of contention is whether to ban the use of cannabis in
public, which risks discriminating against tenants and people of limited
means. The officials recommended allowing use of the drug in specific
In the Netherlands, possibly the European country most associated
with a relaxed attitude toward the use of cannabis, its recreational
use, possession and trade is technically illegal. It has a ‘tolerance
policy’, or gedoogbeleid, under which recreational use is largely accepted within bounds.
Cannabis remains illegal to possess, grow, distribute, sell or grow
in the UK. Those caught with the drug face a maximum of five years in
prison, an unlimited fine or both. Several police forces have said they will no longer target recreational users and those with less than an ounce (28 grams) can be given a warning or on-the-spot fine.
Legalise it: the status of cannabis around the world
Uruguay legalised the recreational use, production
and sale of cannabis in 2013. Only pharmacies are allowed to sell the
drug and there are fewer than 20 doing so in a country of 3.5 million
people. Customers have to register with the regulator and then are
limited to buying 10 grams a week. Four different strains are available.
Canada legalised the possession of 30 grams of
cannabis, dried or fresh, for those aged 18 or over in 2018. The drug
can be bought from a provincially-licensed retailer. In provinces and
territories without a regulated retail framework, individuals are able
to purchase cannabis online from federally-licensed producers.
Under the Netherlands’ gedoogbeleid,
prosecutors turn a blind eye to the breaking of certain laws.
Technically the possession, use and trade of the drug is illegal, but
the authorities allow licensed coffee shops to sell cannabis from their
premises, and to keep 500g on site at any time. The police turn a blind
eye to those in possession of 5g or less. Because production remains
illegal, however, cafes are often forced to do business with criminal
gangs to source the drug.
The UK outlawed cannabis in 1928. Possession comes
with a maximum of five years in prison, an unlimited fine or both. Those
who are successfully prosecuted for producing and supplying the class-B
drug face up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both. Police
can issue an on-the-spot fine or a warning for those caught with less
than an ounce if it is deemed for personal use, but several forces have
said they will not target recreational users.
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Original article: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/07/luxembourg-to-be-first-european-country-to-legalise-cannabis