‘Status quo not a tenable option’: EU ministers discuss cannabis policy hurdles

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Map of Europe with a soft focus

Key European government ministers have concluded more work must be done to craft a sustainable framework for regulating recreational cannabis across the region – arguing the current situation is untenable after an unusual meeting of top officials earlier this month.

Government ministers from Germany, Malta, the Netherlands and meeting host Luxembourg met July 15 to discuss adult-use cannabis regulation and the legal issues involved in market oversight.

Industry officials called the meeting a positive first step in developing a workable regulatory solution for overseeing the production and sale of legal recreational cannabis within the European Union.

“I would say this is a step in the right direction,” Niklas Kouparanis, CEO and co-founder of Frankfurt, Germany-based Bloomwell Group, told MJBizDaily.

“This meeting may indicate the beginning of a much-needed multinational reform within the European Union.”

The gathering – believed to be the first of its kind and held at Senningen Castle – involved countries with varying degrees of interest in regulating recreational cannabis.

At the meeting’s conclusion, Germany, Luxembourg and Malta adopted a joint statement – with the Netherlands electing not to take part.

“The status quo is not a tenable option,” the three ministers said in a news release.

Luxembourg Health Minister Paulette Lenert went a step further, saying in a separate release:

“I am convinced that a paradigm shift is needed in cannabis policy, which must be based on the primary responsibility of adopting a coherent, balanced and evidence (based policy), aimed at achieving the most beneficial outcome for society.”

Kouparanis, for his part, noted that, without major reform, “adult-use cannabis legalization would break EU Law.”

He added that Germany, Luxembourg and Malta need allies in their drive to reform cannabis laws and regulations.

“In the beginning of September, health ministers of the European Union will meet again at an unofficial meeting. This will be prime time for German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach to find more allies,” Kouparanis said.

Joint statement 

In their joint statement, the three ministers agreed that marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug throughout Europe, adding that “control of the quality and potency of cannabis products is not possible as long as they are not regulated and controlled by public authorities guided by public health objectives.”

“We bear the responsibility for reviewing existing and future regulations and policies in the light of new scientific evidence, monitoring data, emerging consumption patterns and market evolutions,” they said.

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According to the joint statement, the review should be guided primarily by the principles of public health and public security.

The statement did not make any mention of business opportunities or tax revenue.

“They’re trying to find a solution to certain EU law hurdles, including the Council Framework Decision 2004/757/JHA, which in its Article 2 mandates that member states punish cannabis production and sale – among other activities – when committed ‘without right,’” said Alfredo Pascual, vice president of investment analysis at Guernsey-based Seed Innovations.

He suggested the words “without right” could be key to finding a solution.

The meeting comes amid signs that at least some European governments are serious about developing a unified regulatory system to govern legal cannabis.

Recently, some members of the European Parliament (MEP) formed an informal interest group on adult-use cannabis policies, Malta Today reported.

“The patchwork of policies across the EU, and the emergence of other countries warming up to the idea of legalizing cannabis is sure to create a lot of discussion in terms of European, Schengen and single-market law. This is why we need to start the conversation,” MEP Cyrus Engerer said.

Meanwhile, Germany says it plans to legalize and regulate adult-use cannabis; however, it is not known how the country will navigate prohibitive EU law in doing so.

Last year, Luxembourg backpedaled on its plan to establish Europe’s first fully legal recreational cannabis market, citing issues involving broader EU law.

After benchmarking the Canadian model for use in Luxembourg, the government instead announced plans to allow home cultivation of up to four plants for personal use – with no option for retail sales.

A Dutch “pilot program” to allow the limited cultivation and distribution of recreational cannabis has experienced major delays, stemming largely from the illegality of the drug.

Matt Lamers can be reached at matt.lamers@mjbizdaily.com.