Are these European countries next to legalize cannabis?

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Some exciting news swept across the cannabis industry on December 14 — Malta officially legalized recreational cannabis. The move meant that Malta made history as the first country in Europe to approve adult-use cannabis legalization.

Soon after, it was reported that Germany is keen to follow in Malta’s footsteps. On Tuesday, December 28, the country’s coalition government confirmed that it was preparing to allow “the controlled sale of cannabis to adults for recreational purposes in licensed shops.”

Although it is hard to bet the next European country that will legalize recreational cannabis in 2022, there are some likely movers to keep a close eye on:

  • Luxembourg

In October, Luxembourg’s government announced that adults will be allowed to grow up to four plants in their gardens or homes. The relaxed rules apply to people aged 18 and over. However, the law will not take effect until the country’s legislative body gives the measure a thumb’s up. Industry experts attribute delays to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, the Luxembourg government polished its draft bill, which is expected to be enacted at some point this year.

  • Switzerland

Switzerland clarified its plans to legalize cannabis cultivation this past October. Based on the proposed legal framework, cannabis cultivation, consumption, production and trade will be legalized at some point during 2022. Meanwhile, Switzerland’s largest city, Zurich, is the chosen location for a three-year scientific pilot project that will commence in Fall 2022.

  • Italy

Although previous attempts to legalize cannabis in Italy via legislative initiatives have been widely unsuccessful, the country’s activists successfully organized a referendum in 2021 which is being safeguarded from interruption by the coalition government to eliminate penalties for cannabis possession and decriminalize domestic cannabis cultivation by updating various articles of narcotics law. Should the ballot process progress, citizens will be invited to cast their votes on cannabis decriminalization in 2022. 

  • Portugal

Since medical cannabis was legalized across the country in 2018, Portugal has evolved into a core center of activity for U.S. and Canadian companies looking to find their feet in the European market. In 2001, Portugal was recognized as the first European country to decriminalize cannabis and other hard drugs. However, the cannabis market has not yet been regulated. Lawmakers must spend some time this year reviewing two draft bills to permit legal cannabis cultivation, consumption and personal possession.

Prohibition Partners report explores the burgeoning European cannabis industry

The outlook for cannabis reform across Europe looks fairly green, with a 2021 report by Prohibition Partners,“The European Cannabis Report: 6th Edition,” revealing a wide range of commercial opportunities across Europe. 

The report by Prohibition Partners pins a €403.4 million (USD$459 million) valuation on the European cannabis market by the end of 2021. Between 2021 and 2025, expert analysts predict that the market size will surge at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 67.4 percent.

As cannabis is progressively liberalized across Europe, analysts foresee Germany constituting more than half of the market until 2024, at which point the country’s growing market will likely be worth more than €840 million (USD$955 million.) By the following year, France and the United Kingdom will flourish, but not before significantly boosting patient access.