Legality of Cannabis in Different Parts of the World

Legality of Cannabis

Cannabis is the most commonly listed narcotic in European allegations of drug legislation violations. In 2014, the substance was responsible for 57 percent of an estimated 1.6 million offences (EMCDDA, 2016).

Cannabis is also the most often used illegal substance in Europe. In the European Union, at least one in every eight young adults (aged 15–34 years) is reported to have used cannabis in the previous year. These percentages vary widely across the country, ranging from less than 1% to more than 20% of young people.

According to the latest recent data, 1% of the adult population (aged 15–64 years) of the United State Around 3 million people in the European Union and Norway smoke cannabis on a daily or near-daily basis. The patterns in usage differ from country to country. Since roughly 2005, surveys have shown falling or constant patterns in reported usage in Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom, while increased trends may be seen in Bulgaria, France, and three Nordic nations (Denmark, Finland, and Sweden).

The legalization of cannabis for recreational uses in several US states and Uruguay since 2012 has sparked a renewed discussion regarding the laws restricting or legalising cannabis use and supply across the world. Proposals to legalise the substance have sparked fears that they may lead to an increase in cannabis usage and accompanying hazards, as well as debates about how cannabis for non-medical uses should be managed to address these concerns. Since the 1970s, the Netherlands has had a system of limited distribution inside the European Union, which has witnessed additional expansion in recent years.

The benefits and drawbacks of these controlled systems are being extensively scrutinised. In recent drug policy discussions, the concept of “cannabis social clubs” has gotten a lot of attention. Its proponents say that in some nations, the choice not to punish individuals for cannabis use may also be extended to registered groups of persons, allowing for a closed cannabis manufacturing and distribution system. National governments throughout Europe are currently rejecting the model.

The question of modifying cannabis regulations is being debated in the media and in the public sphere across Europe.

National governments, on the other hand, are worried about the influence of cannabis usage on public health and are typically opposed to decriminalizing or legalising cannabis for recreational use.

Nonetheless, cannabis regulations, as well as the medical and scientific research that informs policymaking, are in the midst of a transition, the course of which is still unknown.

The EMCDDA has chosen to compile this report with this backdrop in mind.

The current report, which incorporates and builds on previous EMCDDA work examines cannabis regulation across the European Union (with a focus on recreational usage, rather than manufacturing and use for medicinal or industrial purposes). The paper, which is intended for a broad audience, intends to provide quick answers to some of the most commonly asked issues concerning cannabis policy. These are divided into four sections:

  1. What is cannabis, and what are governments’ responsibilities for its regulation?
  2. What are the relevant laws and guidelines?
  3. What happens to marijuana offenders in the real world?
  4. What is the future of cannabis legislation?

Is cannabis treated the same as other narcotics in terms of legality?

In terms of the punishments applied for cannabis offenses, European nations can be classified into two groups. Cannabis is regulated differently under the law than other substances in the first group, primarily because punishment levels are determined by the degree of harm that the use of the drug may produce. In the second category, legal punishments are identical for all drugs, including cannabis, but police or prosecutor instructions, as well as court discretion in practice, differentiate between substances based on relative harm, resource prioritization, or other factors. These distinctions can be used to offenses involving the use, supply, or both.

Will a positive cannabis drug test result in an arrest?

If drug usage (not only possession for personal use) is a criminal offense under national law, a positive drug test might result in arrest. The UN treaties, which are primarily targeted at curbing drug supply, do not need such an offense. The 1988 Convention expanded this to include personal possession of drugs where there is still a possibility of the substance being passed on to another person.

Once the medicine has been ingested, the risk is no longer there.

Nonetheless, some nations make consumption a crime, either as a statement of society’s opposition to drug use or as a practical measure to provide authorities with particular tools to investigate a crime or catch a user. Cannabis use is a serious crime in Cyprus, France, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Norway, and Sweden, and it carries a jail term. In Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Portugal, as well as in Spain if consumed in a public place, it is a crime punishable by a fine or another small penalty.

In every one of these countries, In theory, a positive drug test might result in police action, although the law is applied differently in various nations. The legislation is used to enforce public order in situations of public drunkenness in Estonia and Sweden, for example; in Sweden, it is also utilised to provide police the right to capture drug addicts and lead them to treatment. In certain nations, a public drug test and consequent arrest are only likely if the individual is driving a car, which is more of a road safety policy than a drug control strategy (see ‘Is it unlawful to drive with cannabis in the body?’, for example).

Personal cannabis possession has been decriminalized in which states?

Decriminalization must first be defined in order to answer this question. Decriminalisation is a term that refers to a shift away from government-enforced prohibition Sanctions have been imposed. Depenalisation and legalisation are two other phrases used to represent penalty reductions, however, these three concepts can be used separately or interchangeably, resulting in inconsistencies in country legislation. While operational definitions are conceivable (see below), additional considerations complicate the situation further.

To begin with, there is no universally accepted objective standard for decriminalisation. This means that depending on the criteria they used (e.g., the status of the law that describes the offence, the severity of the punishment prescribed, or whether an entry is made on the offender’s criminal record that is visible to employers), two experts could disagree on a country’s classification. Second, while the common phrases used above may be applied to the country’s laws, the application of such laws may differ in practise due to police or prosecutor directions. Third, the phrases ‘decriminalisation,’ ‘depenalisation,’ and ‘legalisation,’ when taken literally, refer to a transition from one legal status to another.

When used in nations where the law has never proven that an offence is criminal, the phrases are erroneous.

The following distinctions should be recognized in basic terms:

The term “decriminalization” refers to the process of removing criminal status from a certain behavior or activity. This is not to say that the behavior is lawful; narcotics can be confiscated, and non-criminal sanctions can be imposed. This word is frequently used in the drug debate to refer to legislation relating to a personal possession or use rather than drug supply. Luxembourg (just cannabis), Croatia, Portugal, and Slovenia are examples of nations that have decriminalized drug use or personal possession.

Depenalisation refers to the option or policy of ending a criminal case without inflicting penalty, for example, because the case is deemed “small” or prosecution is deemed “not in the public interest.” Austria, Germany, and Poland are possible examples.

Legalisation is the process of making a previously illegal act legal. This typically refers to the removal of all criminal and noncriminal punishments in the context of the drug debate, while restrictions may limit the scope of the permission, as in the case of alcohol and cigarettes. Breaching these restrictions may result in criminal or noncriminal penalties. This word is most commonly used in the context of drug distribution. The systems in Uruguay and the US states of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington are good examples; in Europe, the Dutch system of cannabis sales through coffeeshops is just tolerating an illegal behaviour.

What is the future of cannabis legislation?

The tendency in regulations over the last 20 years has been to lessen, if not eliminate, jail sentences for small cannabis possession. notwithstanding the fact that in certain countries, sanctions have been imposed increased. These punishment modifications may only apply to certain types of offences.cannabis offences, as well as minor drug offences.

The European Medicines Agency (EMCDDA) has examined the available data on prevalence.before and after each adjustment, in order to derive conclusions

Policymakers might be able to learn something from this. Additionally, researchers have investigated the consequences of policy changes in France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.


This analysis of the various approaches to cannabis law in Europe looked at the intricacies and differences. the similarity of laws in the EU’s member states

Norway, the European Union, and Turkey are all members of the European Union. It’s difficult to find a common approach to the problem.

Cannabis regulation is different in each of these nations. Many countries have various laws and punishments. surrounds the sale and usage of cannabis, although in various ways. Several countries have laws that treat all illegal substances the same. Others consider cannabis offences to be a less serious legal offence. matter, and a few of them impose more harsher punishments for it cannabis-related offences

According to data from certain European nations, authorities are more likely to legally register cannabis users rather than overlook them due to the priority given to other crimes.

Despite variances in formal legal consequences, the penalties for possession, use, and, in some cases, supply of cannabis in most EU nations are frequently less harsh than those for other illegal drugs. Where governments have attempted to steer cannabis users into treatment, it is unclear if this strategy has garnered universal support, with legislative efforts created and executed with various degrees of enthusiasm. It’s unclear how much of this stems from a desire to prioritise a punitive approach or a lack of faith in the efficacy of more rehabilitative approaches.

At least 15 European nations have changed their legislation influencing punishments for cannabis users in the previous 20 years, albeit there has been no serious scientific study of these changes. It’s uncertain if raising or decreasing legal penalties for cannabis-related offences has had a discernible and consistent impact on cannabis usage in any of these nations. The legislation’s actual application may vary depending on directions or discretion, and its consequences may also vary depending on how users perceive the penalties they may face. Other factors, such as anti-smoking regulations and other environmental prevention initiatives, might have an impact on usage rates.

Attempts to build systems that do not penalise the supply of recreational cannabis, such as coffee shops in the Netherlands and cannabis social clubs, have largely failed. In the Netherlands, there are fewer coffeeshops than there were 15 years ago, and they are more carefully regulated.

Despite the fact that a number of European nations have expressed interest in cannabis social clubs, none have yet reached even a “semi-legal” status, in which their operation is allowed but not sanctioned. In a broader sense, European countries have not attempted to legalise recreational cannabis in the same manner that Uruguay and a growing number of US states do. The few nations that have built legal systems for producing and distributing cannabis for medicinal reasons guarantee that it is tightly regulated.

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(MARCH – APRIL 2022)


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