Fact Check: Is Luxembourg the First European Country to Legalize Cannabis?

Has Luxembourg become the first to legalize cannabis in Europe? Reports are circulating that the country of 600,000 recently became the first country in Europe to legalize the production and consumption of cannabis. However, news of this should be taken with a grain of salt.

Despite growing movements for cannabis reform in Europe, many countries in the region are still slow to implement sweeping changes and full legalization. This is in contrast to many European countries’ images as being relatively pro-cannabis. Indeed, the so-called laissez-faire attitude countries like the Netherlands seem to have in regards to cannabis is contrasted by their lack of concrete action on cannabis laws.

On the 22nd of October, the Luxembourg government announced new proposals for cannabis laws that hold the promise of long-awaited reforms.

Here are some positive highlights of the new announcement:

  • Adults over 18 will be allowed to use cannabis
  • Adults can grow up to four plants per household
  • The trade of seeds will be permitted without any limit on the levels of THC
  • It will now be possible to buy seeds in shops, import them or buy them online
  • Plans for the domestic production of seeds for commercial purposes are also underway

And here are some caveats that reveal holes in this plan:

  • It is still illegal to consume cannabis in public
  • It is still illegal to transport cannabis or cannabis products in public
  • It is still illegal to trade in cannabis or cannabis products other than seeds, even if no monetary transaction occurs
  • If you possess more than 3 grams of cannabis, you will be considered a dealer and charged as one

However, the new laws also introduce a softening of fines. For instance, possession and transport of up to 3 grams of cannabis will only be classified as a misdemeanour and will only yield fines of between $29 and $581. Previously, the fine could be as high as $2,910.

So, Has Luxembourg Actually Legalized Cannabis?

It is important to note that the law, despite being introduced by the government and having strong support from the ruling coalition, still needs to be put to a vote in parliament. The potential outcome of this remains up in the air, with opposition parties such as the Christian Social People’s Party (CSV) expressing strong disapproval.

CSV leader Claude Wiseler even cited Canada’s legalization of cannabis as not an exemplary benchmark, but a cautionary tale. He believes that with legalization, the black market will become even more robust and that the youth will increase their consumption of cannabis. It is this writer’s opinion that he does not have the evidence to back these claims up.

In fact, many progressive lawmakers around the world consider Canadian legalization to be a benchmark for cannabis laws around the world. The question now is how to get governments to come together and actually implement meaningful reforms.

The Bottom Line: Luxembourg’s Baby Steps

Considering these caveats, it is not prudent to jump the gun and say that Luxembourg has become the first country in Europe to legalize weed. Even if the government’s proposals for reforms go through, there is still much to be desired.

There have been reports dating back to 2019 of Luxembourg “legalizing” cannabis, but as these events show, that is not yet the truth.

Should the government be lauded for taking these baby steps? What’s holding European nations back from legalization, considering their relatively progressive outlooks on other matters? Experts in Europe have claimed that the difficulty of cannabis legalization in the continent stems from a lack of direct democracy, though whether other factors are at play remains sadly understudied.

Elsewhere in Europe, countries like Spain and Portugal have opted to go the route of decriminalization, while countries like France and Germany still treat cannabis as an illegal substance, with very arbitrary and discretionary enforcement. Citizens have no real way of knowing whether they are only going to be slapped with a small fine, benefit from a blind eye turned or be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Considering these roadblocks, the Luxembourg government’s initiatives should be supported and lawmakers throughout Europe should be held accountable to answer to the voice of the people. For instance, citizens of the Netherlands have time and again voiced their desire for reforms, but the Dutch government is reluctant to budge on the status quo.

Europe is the next frontier for cannabis legalization, and how forward-looking their governments are may set the stage for a new wave of reforms in other parts of the world. Be on the lookout for developments in Luxembourg and stay abreast of the latest cannabis news by following @CLN.