Is Weed Legal in Europe? [Country-by-Country Status]
Throughout the last two decades, marijuana laws have been relaxed in many places. Weed is now legal for medicinal use in 33 states and for recreational use in ten. In October 2018, Canada made history as it became the second country to fully legalize cannabis use, following in the footsteps of Uruguay in 2012.
Look across the Atlantic into Europe and cannabis laws are a little hazier. While many European countries tolerate a small amount of weed for personal use, it is still technically illegal across most of the continent.
Cannabis laws in Europe vary significantly from country to country, further adding to the confusion. So if you are thinking about using marijuana in Europe, you will want to read this first.
Marijuana in Europe: What’s the Score?
Marijuana is just as popular in Europe as in the rest of the world. Studies into marijuana use in Europe show that as many as 1 in 8 young Europeans used pot in the past year, and an estimated 1% of the population are regular users.
Although the European Union (EU) has made many European laws more uniform, this does not apply to the laws on cannabis. These rules can be very different from one country to the next, even in places which are geographically and culturally close.
For example, you are not likely to be punished for minor possession in many countries including Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Latvia, Belgium, and the Czech Republic. On the other hand, some of the countries with the harshest drug laws in Europe include Greece, Cyprus, Hungary, Sweden, and Finland. In these countries, all drug use is considered a criminal offense and may lead to prison time.
To clear things up, let’s take a joint-fuelled journey through Europe, looking at some major countries and their cannabis laws.
Marijuana Laws in the Netherlands
If one European country is frequently associated with marijuana, it has to be the Netherlands . Although not fully legalized, marijuana use is decriminalized in the Netherlands, meaning that you can only be prosecuted under certain circumstances.
Since the 1970s, coffee shops in the Netherlands have been allowed to sell weed to customers under strict conditions. These conditions include not selling alcohol or hard drugs, not causing a nuisance, not advertising the sale of cannabis, and not selling more than 5g of weed to any individual at one time.
In 2013, the Dutch government implemented a law stating that only Dutch nationals could purchase marijuana in coffee shops. This change in the law was an attempt to cut down on public nuisance caused by marijuana tourism. Since then, coffee shop owners have been required to see identification before selling their products, but in reality, do not always put these checks into practice.
Even Dutch nationals do not get a completely free pass when it comes to marijuana. The police have the power to seize any cannabis in their possession and could choose to prosecute anybody found with more than 5g.
Marijuana Laws in Portugal
Another country with relatively liberal drug laws is Portugal. Here, all narcotics including cannabis are decriminalized, and rehabilitation is preferable to prosecution in most cases. Those caught with small amounts of marijuana may have to face a “commission for dissuasion of drug addiction,” a panel made up of three members of the legal, medical, and social care professions. There may also be a fine for repeat offenders.
Despite this more relaxed law on cannabis consumption in Portugal, cultivation is completely illegal and could be punishable by imprisonment.
Marijuana Laws in Spain
The drug laws in neighboring Spain are somewhat more complicated. Public cannabis consumption is considered a “serious order offense” and could lead to a hefty fine of between 601 and 30,000 Euros.
However, private marijuana use and cultivation in a private space is legal, and the possession of small amounts generally goes unpunished.
Another law decriminalizing “closed circle” use has led to the formation of cannabis social clubs, which allow weed to be grown and distributed to members without commercializing its use. These social clubs are a legal gray area though, and anyone found guilty of supplying cannabis could well end up with prison time.
Marijuana Laws in France
Move north into France, and you will find some of the strictest marijuana laws in Europe. Here the penalties for being caught with cannabis range from a drugs awareness course (taken at personal expense) to prison time up to a year for personal use.
Back in June, French nationals tried to exploit a loophole in the law which allows the sale of marijuana with a THC content below 0.2%, opening Dutch-style coffee shops stocking this product known as “weed-light.” These establishments were promptly shut down by the police, further establishing that in France, weed is still very much illegal, no matter how strong.
In 2014, France did, however, implement a medical marijuana program and laws do seem to be loosening, which has the potential to open up a portal of economic growth, considering that France is one of the biggest consumers of cannabis in Europe regardless of strict regulations. We can’t wait to see how things progress in the near future for France and marijuana.
Marijuana Laws in Germany
Across the border in Germany , the law is slightly more flexible. Medical marijuana has been legal since 2017, and the number of registered patients is on the rise.
Although unauthorized possession, supply, and cultivation are still against the law, you may not be prosecuted if you get caught with a small amount of cannabis for personal use. So what constitutes as a small amount? That all depends on which state you are in and can vary between 6g and 15g.
Marijuana Laws in Switzerland
Unlike neighboring France and Germany, marijuana is legal and readily available in Switzerland , for medicinal use at least. Walk down any Swiss street and you will pass a number of pharmacies and head shops selling weed and smoking supplies. The catch is that these legal strains all contain less than 1% THC, so although they may ease your aches and pains, they are unlikely to get you high.
The punishment for illegal consumption is a fine of up to 100 Swiss Francs. However, you are unlikely to face prosecution for cannabis unless you have more than 10g in your possession.
Marijuana Laws in Italy
Travel south into Italy, and you will be greeted by some of the most confusing marijuana laws in Europe. Like Switzerland, it is legal to sell weed with a low THC content (under 0.2%), and cannabis stores are a common sight on the streets of major Italian cities. However, it is still illegal to consume marijuana in any way, and the products sold in these shops are marketed as “collector’s items” only.
Marijuana can be prescribed for medicinal purposes in Italy with the caveat that it is used as a “symptomatic treatment supporting standard treatment.” Some of the conditions it is licensed for include spasticity, chemotherapy-induced nausea, reduced appetite due to AIDS, glaucoma, and Tourette’s syndrome.
Marijuana Laws in the Czech Republic
Another European country where medical marijuana is legal is the Czech Republic, although only a handful of doctors are licensed to prescribe it. These are specialists such as oncologists and psychiatrists, meaning that getting your hands on cannabis in the Czech Republic may not be all that easy. However, if you are lucky enough to get a prescription, it will allow you access to a generous 180g of medical marijuana each month, more than enough for most people’s needs.
The Czech Republic is also relatively relaxed when it comes to recreational cannabis use. Possession of a small amount is classed as a misdemeanor and is not punishable by law, although it may attract a fine of up to 15,000 Czech Koruna (approximately 555 Euros). Being found with more substantial amounts could mean up to a year in prison.
Marijuana Laws in the UK
Marijuana laws in the UK are on the brink of change, as recent high-profile cases have brought its medicinal benefits into the public eye. Cannabis is now available as a medicine for those holding a special license, although the first UK medical dispensary just recently opened its doors in Cheadle of the Greater Manchester area.
According to current UK marijuana laws , being caught with a small amount will lead to seizure and a warning. A second offense will incur a fine, and a third could lead to a prison sentence of up to five years.
Final Thoughts: Is Marijuana Legal in Europe?
Marijuana laws in Europe are set by each government and can be very different from place to place. Add into the mix the fact that medical marijuana is legal in some countries but not others, and you have a very confusing set of laws.
Although there are many countries in Europe where cannabis use is tolerated, it is still technically illegal across most of the continent. The truth is that, in most places, police time and money are considered better spent elsewhere, and so many minor cannabis crimes go unpunished.
However, if you are caught with weed in Europe, there is a chance you could face a warning, a fine, enforced rehabilitation, or prison time. It all depends on the country and the exact circumstances of your case. So if you are considering smoking weed in Europe, be warned: do so at your own risk!
Is marijuana legal in Europe? Here we bring you an overview of each EU country and their stance on the cannabis plant. Enjoy!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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