What is the legal situation of cannabis in Iceland? A large number of tourists travel to Iceland every year to experience the country’s beautiful and unspoilt natural landscapes. Being one of the world’s most picturesque countries, Iceland is often seen as an alluring tourist destination for stoners.
But, as a tourist staring at one of Iceland’s geysers, you might be wondering if you could get into legal trouble for consuming some weed. So, what is the legal status of cannabis in Iceland? Read on to find out.
Drug laws in Iceland
In the 1990s, Icelandic teens were some of the heaviest-drinking youths in Europe. The streets of Reykjavik were full of teenagers getting drunk. And, at the time, Iceland was also facing a serious drug problem, having one of the worst rates for teen substance abuse in Europe: over 40 percent of teens used alcohol, 25 percent were smoking and 17 percent used marijuana.
So Iceland changed its laws. Selling alcohol to anyone under 20 and cigarettes to anyone under 18 became illegal. Parents were encouraged to spend more time with their children, and the government launched new programs for sports, music, dance and arts for minors.
Today, Iceland has one of the lowest teen substance abuse rates in Europe. The percentage of teens who drink dropped from over 40 to only five. And only 3 percent of teens smoke tobacco nowadays.
Given the country’s difficult past with substance abuse, it’s easy to understand why drug offences are still heavily punished.
Drug cultivation, processing, trafficking, possession and consumption of drugs are criminal offences in Iceland. Anyone caught doing any of these things risks spending some time in an Icelandic jail.
However, Iceland’s approach to drug addiction is completely different from that of other countries. Iceland sees drug addiction as a health problem rather than a criminal offence, so it opened supervised drug consumption centres for drug addicts.
The goal of these centres is to provide those with severe drug addictions with safe and clean environments in which to consume drugs without the risk of contracting debilitating diseases such as HIV. The centres provide drug addicts with clean syringes, sanitised needles as well as basic health assistance.
Cannabis laws in Iceland
Cannabis is illegal in Iceland. Cannabis cultivation and trafficking are heavily penalised, but cannabis possession may be penalised with a heavy monetary fine rather than jail time, especially for first-time offenders.
However, the penalty for marijuana possession is directly correlated with the quantity of drugs in the offender’s possession. First-time offenders who are caught with up to one gram of cannabis can expect to receive a fine of about 35,000 krona (about €225), while those caught in possession of 0.5 kg may face prison sentences of at least three months.
In spite of the country’s harsh stance on cannabis, weed is still Iceland’s favourite illegal drug. It’s estimated that 6.6 percent of Icelanders smoked marijuana in 2012. However, the survey’s results were poorly interpreted by some reporters, which led to a popular false news report which claimed that 18.3 percent of the country’s population used cannabis, a figure that’s far from the truth.
The legalisation of cannabis is a recurring topic for Icelandic politics. A legalisation proposal was submitted to the Icelandic parliament back in 2017, but it didn’t stir up too many discussions and was never voted upon.
In 2019, a new bill that would have effectively decriminalised buying, receiving or possessing drugs solely for personal use was submitted to the Icelandic parliament. Drug production and trafficking would have remained illegal, but the proposed bill would have helped drug consumers receive medical treatment instead of being punished. However, the bill was not approved.
You might think that the Icelandic population can barely wait for cannabis to be legalised, given the fact that there were two legalisation attempts so far. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
A survey conducted in November 2011 showed that 87.3 percent of Icelanders opposed the legalisation of cannabis. Another survey, this one conducted in 2016, revealed that 76.8 percent of the respondents were against the legalisation of cannabis for personal use.
But the results vary considerably over different age groups. Around 41.3 percent of the country’s young adults aged 18 to 29 would like to see cannabis legalised, while only 4.8 percent of the country’s population over 68 years of age would agree to it.
Medical cannabis in Iceland
Iceland does not have a medical marijuana program as other countries do, but some Icelandic doctors can prescribe cannabis medicine for their patients if they believe that the medicine would help with their condition.
At the moment, only licensed neurosurgeons are allowed to prescribe cannabis medicine, and they can only prescribe Sativex for patients suffering from Muscular Dystrophy.
Hemp in Iceland
Iceland changed its narcotics regulations regarding the production of industrial cannabis in April 2020 by allowing its Medicines Agency to import industrial hemp seeds. This change in regulations was instigated after a small farm in the country’s northeast had a difficult time convincing the authorities that it was not growing drugs.
The farmer obtained a confirmation from the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority to import and cultivate hemp seeds but was still raided by the police. However, after testing the hemp plants and not finding any traces of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the police dropped the case against the farmer.
CBD in Iceland
Cannabidiol (CBD) products are allowed in Iceland as long as they do not contain THC. This might make it difficult to find suitable products, but it’s not impossible.
Iceland has a small but developing network of CBD manufacturers, so tourists should be able to find local products.
The future of cannabis in Iceland
Iceland adopted a harsh stance toward cannabis, and that’s not very likely to change soon. Most of the country’s population is against marijuana legalisation, and the legal attempts to decriminalise weed have been unsuccessful so far.
Even though many young Icelanders would like to see cannabis legalised, the complete opposition of the older generations might postpone this process for some time yet.