Last November, the liberal-led coalition in Luxembourg announced that the government intends to legalise recreational cannabis. Leaders of each of the coalition parties (Democratic Party, Luxembourg Socialist Workers Party, and the Greens) later reiterated these plans at a press conference. The coalition made the announcement just five months after it legalised medical cannabis. There are various aims to the legalisation proposal, including:
- Removing cannabis users from the black market
- Reducing “psychological and physical harms”
- Minimising criminal activity at the supply level
Luxembourg is now set to be the first European country to fully legalise cannabis for recreational use. Despite popular belief, it should be noted that recreational cannabis is not technically legal in the Netherlands. The sale of cannabis is tolerated in licensed establishments. In contrast, the legalisation of recreational cannabis in Luxembourg will mean that citizens can use, possess, and consume cannabis and cannabis products, sold through commercial retailers. In the Netherlands, on the other hand, possessing a small amount of cannabis is a criminal offence.
The prospect of Luxembourg fully legalising cannabis shows that European countries are catching up to the progressive drug policies we are seeing in North America. Like the US and Canada, Luxembourg can expect to generate a useful source of revenue from the commercial sale of cannabis. Here are some key details about what Luxembourg’s mode of regulation will look like.
Tax Revenue Will Tackle Drug-Related Harm
Luxembourg’s Ministry of Health has stated that it will use the tax revenue generated from cannabis sales to fund drug education and addiction treatment programmes. This is one of the critical ways in which legalisation helps to tackle drug-related harm. When cannabis is trapped in an illegal black market, the potential revenue is lost, which means opportunities to combat addiction are also lost.
Cannabis Will Stay Local
Currently, Luxembourg imports its cannabis for medical use from Canadian producer Aurora Cannabis Inc. However, in the 246-page policy document that outlines plans to legalise cannabis, the government states that the country is not likely to import or export cannabis. This implies that Luxembourg will grow and sell its own cannabis for consumption.
Cannabis is for Citizens Only
The coalition’s proposal emphasises that recreational cannabis will only be available to “adult citizens”. Since Luxembourg is only home to around 600,000 people, this means that revenue generated from cannabis, while welcome, will surely be limited. According to a source from the Luxembourg Socialist Workers Party, the coalition government “isn’t considering transforming Luxembourg into a cannabis tourism destination,” which is something we have seen with the liberalisation of cannabis in the Netherlands. This move is understandable, given that the abundance of coffee shops in Amsterdam, open to tourists, has helped to fuel overtourism. Luxembourg may be able to enforce its citizens-only policy in regards to recreational cannabis despite being an EU member, which promotes freedom of movement between EU member states.
The Age of Restriction Will Be 18
With only “adult citizens” able to legally purchase and consume cannabis for recreational use in Luxembourg, this means age restrictions will be set at 18, the same as in Amsterdam. In most of Canada, you need to be 19 to buy, possess, and consume cannabis. However, Quebec’s newly elected government has pledged to raise the minimum age to 21, which applies to all US states where recreational cannabis is legal. Age restrictions are an important matter. After all, research shows that brain development doesn’t fully mature until the age of 25, so there are concerns about how cannabis affects the brain if it is habitually used before 25. Restricting recreational cannabis to users aged 25 or older may, therefore, be safer. Nonetheless, it remains the case that, in an unregulated market, street dealers can sell cannabis to users of any age. When cannabis is regulated, it makes it much less likely that teenagers will be able to access it (since the black market will disappear and licensed vendors can ask for ID).
It will be interesting to see which European country will follow Luxembourg’s suit, although some EU member states may be waiting to see how legalisation in Luxembourg pans out. It’s worth noting that the legalisation of recreational cannabis in Luxembourg may take a while. As the Socialist Workers Party source underscores, “the agreement is to do this in the next legislative period, which means up to five years.”