europe marijuana

Can Europe learn from Germany’s approach to cannabis?

Exploring regulation and policy in Germany, the world’s third largest legal cannabis market outside North America.

As of December 2019, Germany represented the world’s third largest market for legal cannabis-based products outside of North America. Since the country moved to legalise the prescribing of cannabis for medical use to severely ill patients in 2017, around 60,000 patients have received cannabis prescriptions through their health insurance providers.

With the German approach to cannabis policy increasingly held up as a model for fellow EU Member States, MCN explores cannabis regulation in Germany.

Law and policy

While cannabis for recreational and adult use is prohibited in Germany, legislation governing penalties for possession varies incrementally from state to state.

In Hamburg, Lower Saxony and Bavaria, for instance, citizens may avoid prosecution for possession of no more than 6g of cannabis; while in Rhineland-Palatinate and Thuringia, the permissible amount rises to 10g. Possession of up to 15g is effectively decriminalised in Berlin – though residents of the capital have expressed concerns that this may lead to ‘cannabis tourism’ similar to that which occurs in Amsterdam. Germany’s Commissioner on Narcotic Drugs, Daniela Ludwig, has called for standardisation of rules between states, calling interstate discrepancies ‘difficult’.

The Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) may issue licences to producers hoping to grow cannabis in Germany, which currently relies wholly on imported products. The first licensed German cannabis harvest is set for the end of 2020; and BfArM is accepting applications for its state distribution tender. The successful company will oversee the distribution of all domestically grown cannabis flower to German pharmacies.

Germany’s Green, Left and Free Democratic parties are all active proponents of legalisation and regulation of cannabis for adult use, on the premise that legalising the drug would help protect its consumers. By regulating how cannabis is sold and its components, as well as instituting strict age limits, the parties argue, adult consumers would incur less risk of consuming tainted product; while removing the stigma of purchasing the drug through illicit means would help alleviate consumers’ fear of seeking medical help where necessary.

In medicine

In 2017, the German government approved the legalisation of cannabis as a prescribed drug for ‘seriously ill’ patients for whom there was ‘no therapeutic alternative’. The then Commissioner on Narcotic Drugs Marlene Mortler, Ludwig’s predecessor, cautioned at the time: “The use of cannabis as a medicine within narrow limits is useful and should be explored in more detail. At the same time, cannabis is not a harmless substance: legalisation for private pleasure is not the aim and purpose of this. It is intended for medical use only.”

The move to legalise cannabis for medical purposes followed an increasingly progressive approach, which saw the rescheduling of THC-based medicine Dronabinol for research purposes in 1994; followed by further softening of regulations in 1998, which enabled the drug to be made available on prescription in very specific circumstances. By 2008, seven patients across Germany were prescribed cannabis-related treatment.

In 2018, Germany’s legal medical cannabis sales totalled $73m: the highest of any EU Member State. Imports of cannabis flower into the country have doubled annually since 2017.

In culture

Around four million Germans are regular users of cannabis, either as a prescribed or unofficial treatment for medical purposes or for recreational use. Berlin, the nation’s capital, hosts an annual ‘Hanfparade’ (hemp parade), a demonstration calling for the full legalisation of hemp; the city is also home to the Hanfmuseum (hemp museum), Germany’s only cannabis-focused museum.

Germany and Europe

Prohibition Partners’ fourth European Cannabis Report, published in 2019, projected a probability between 60% and 70% of the EU as a whole legalising medical and adult use cannabis by 2023. If this is the case, the report states, Europe’s cannabis market would be worth $136bn by 2028.

The European Medical Cannabis Association (EUMCA) has indicated that the EU may look to Germany as it moves towards Europe-wide harmonisation of cannabis laws: a process initiated by the European Commission in 2019. As Europe’s largest economy, and with a cannabis market projected to grow to $8.6bn by 2028 with harmonised EU legislation, Germany is leading the way for European cannabis.

This article appeared in the second issue of Medical Cannabis Network which is out now. Click here to get your free subscription today.

Exploring regulation and policy in Germany, the world’s third largest legal cannabis market outside North America.


Is Marijuana Legal in Europe? Breakdown By Country

Where is weed legal in Europe? Unfortunately, while there are some countries with relaxed marijuana laws in Europe, there are currently no countries where pot is legal. That’s right -there are actually no countries that have legalized weed in Europe for recreational use. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t head to the continent and enjoy a toke or two. There are several nations that have legalized cannabis for medical use and there are a few where marijuana use is decriminalized, tolerated by law enforcement and easy to procure and partake. Even if you are technically breaking the law no one will care or bother you about it. And thanks to the fluid borders of the European Union, it is safe to carry your stash from country to country if you stay within the E.U. If you are planning on leaving the friendly confines of the 27 member states that make up the group, you should probably leave the bud behind because customs won’t be pleased if they discover your weed upon entry. While there may not be any countries where marijuana is legal, here are the countries where marijuana laws are currently the most relaxed.


Let’s begin with one of the smaller nations in Europe and the one that looks like it will be the first to officially legalize cannabis for recreational use. Yes, little Luxembourg will be the first of the legal weed countries in Europe when it completes the transition to a legally regulated production, sale and consumption system of cannabis in Europe by 2022. The tiny alpine gem legalized cannabis for medicinal use in 2018 and recreational use is currently considered to be virtually legal. Once the new laws are in place individuals will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana. There might be restrictions on tourist purchasing but the ubiquity of the herb should make what is already an accommodating cannabis culture more than adequate for those visiting from abroad. Quality weed (usually from the Netherlands) can be easily and safely procured at various locations around Luxembourg City Center.

Recreational: Illegal but decriminalized since 2001 with recreational use highly tolerated.
Medical: Legal.
Enforcement: None.


Amsterdam. Just the name of the city brings a twinkle to the eye of even the most seasoned stoner. The coffeeshops of this gorgeous historic city are legendary and known around the world. So much so, in fact, that the local government is considering preventing tourists from entering cannabis shops to keep the party from getting out of hand. The city has been overwhelmed with tourists of all stripes over the last 20 years and residents are concerned that the soul of their town is being lost. For now, however, the coffee shops are open for all to enjoy. But the Netherlands is not just Amsterdam. There are plenty of other beautiful cities and towns to enjoy and most will have at least one coffee shop where you can consult the menu and chose the strain of your desire.


The scene in Spain is unique. The country does not distinguish between recreational and medical cannabis use and while both remain technically illegal, medical and recreational use in private areas were decriminalized in 2015. The easiest way to procure some bud in Spain is to connect with one of the cannabis clubs that are most prevalent in the regions of Catalonia (Barcelona), Navarra (Pamplona) and the Basque Country (San Sebastian, Bilbao). The clubs are private collectives and cooperatives that are allowed to operate in a non-profit manner. They are technically illegal for tourists to patronize but can be accessed without too much difficulty. An ID, an address (a hostel or hotel is fine), and a small “membership” fee are all that is normally required. Some of the clubs can be seedy and only have low-grade marijuana so take your time and find one (there are plenty) with a comfortable atmosphere and top-shelf product. The sentiment in Spain leans toward tolerance of cannabis use and it will hopefully be one of the first European countries where weed is legal.

Recreational: Illegal but decriminalized and highly tolerated in privately-owned spaces.
Medical: Illegal but decriminalized and highly tolerated.
Enforcement: Yes, but only in public areas.

Czech Republic

The mellow and laid-back Czech people are some of the top cannabis consumers on the continent. Cannabis in the Czech Republic remains technically illegal for recreational use, but personal possession (no more than 10 grams) has been decriminalized since 2010 and medical cannabis use is on the rise since it became legal in 2013. The scene in Prague and other Czech cities is similar to other countries where marijuana use is not seen as any big deal by the authorities. If you are smart and don’t flaunt it, you’ll be fine. The best place to procure in Prague is at bars and clubs where there is often a dealer on the premises. Avoid purchasing on the street where swindlers prey on naive tourists.

Recreational: Illegal but decriminalized and highly tolerated.
Medical: Legal.
Enforcement: Rare.


The Netherlands’ neighbor to the south has a cannabis culture that is tolerant but subdued. It is illegal to sell or possess cannabis in Belgium, but personal use was decriminalized in 2003. Medical use is legal but rarely utilized by physicians. Belgium’s proximity to the Netherlands and the open border between the two (within the E.U.) ensures a steady supply of quality cannabis. In the larger cities like Brussels and Antwerp, open smoking in public squares and parks is not uncommon.

Recreational: Illegal but decriminalized and highly tolerated.
Medical: Legal.
Enforcement: Rare.

Weed in Other European Countries

What about some of the larger and most visited countries for people on holiday who might want to get high? Is weed legal in France? Alas, no. But, things do seem to be improving as the government slowly moves to decriminalize and reduce fines and jail sentences. Is weed legal in England or is weed legal in the UK? Again, no. Even though marijuana use is popular and on the rise in England and the rest of the United Kingdom, the current administrations remain intolerant of any recreational marijuana use. The situation is similar in Germany where Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is considering easing restrictions on recreational use but has yet to move forward with any initiative.

Similar to the situation in the states in the U.S. where marijuana use remains forbidden and heavily policed, across Europe marijuana can still be found and consumed if you know where to look. Here is a list of the countries where cannabis use in any manner is illegal and enforced and should probably be avoided if you are intent of hitting the weed hard on your holiday: Albania, Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, France, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Ukraine, United Kingdom.

Have you traveled to Europe recently and purchased or used cannabis? Where were you? How did you get your weed? Let us know in the comment section below.

Where is weed legal in Europe? Unfortunately, while there are some countries with relaxed marijuana laws in Europe, there are currently no countries where pot is legal. That’s right -there are actually no countries that have legalized weed in Europe for recreational use. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t head to the continent and enjoy a toke or