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Cannabis plants

Cannabis and Its Associated Risks

Over 50 countries have presently adopted regulatory frameworks for medical cannabis, while an increasing number of jurisdictions have regulated adult non-medical use

While the health and social impact of cannabis on the younger population has already been addressed repeatedly, much less is known about the legal aspect.

For example, did you know that international laws force countries to impose criminal penalties for drug supply outside of medical purposes? Still, many countries and jurisdictions prefer to tolerate or expand the legalized use of cannabis and its associated products for non-medical purposes.

Drug policy of the Netherlands

The most famous and notable example is the Netherlands, where cannabis is not legal – as most think – but tolerated, and has been since the ‘70s. Also, possession of cannabis for personal use is an offence in all EU Member States, but about one-third of these do not allow prison sentences for minor offences. For example, while in Scandinavia (Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark) someone may go to prison for possession for personal use, in Ireland, Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, or Portugal, a prison sentence would not be possible. The same applies to Belgium, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Lithuania, and Latvia, where incarceration for this offence is not possible.

Recreational marijuana use

The supply of cannabis for recreational use is still illegal everywhere in the EU, with prison sentences applying uniformly across the board. In the Netherlands, however, there are coffee shops for sale and on-site consumption, which are licensed by the municipality. Two-thirds of all Dutch municipalities do not allow them, though.

In some European countries – notably Spain – the cultivation of one cannabis plant is tolerated for one person’s use, which led to the establishment of “cannabis social clubs” based on the premise that if one plant is allowed for one person, ten plants will be tolerated for ten persons. This is, however, entirely not tolerated and unsanctioned by the Spanish government.

In order to better assess numbers and situations, law enforcement has at their disposal useful and efficient instruments: Among them, handheld analyzers and portable drug test kits, used especially under more pressing or limiting circumstances, outside of the usual labs and clinics.


« Principles for the Responsible Legal Regulation of Cannabis ».

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