Luxembourg has called on its EU neighbors to relax their drug laws as its health minister confirmed plans to become the first European country to legalize 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.
Minors aged between 12 and 17 would not be criminalized 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 legalization 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 cannabis.
Luxembourg has already legalized the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. Possession of small amounts for recreational use has also been decriminalized, 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 legalized 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 legalizing the possession of 30 grams of cannabis. Tax revenues will be reinvested in drug education and addiction treatment programs.
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 public areas.
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.