In the summer of 2019, Luxembourg surprised the world (and especially its neighbours) when it declared that it will legalise cannabis production and consumption. The news spread like wildfire, with different European politicians arguing for or against marijuana legalisation.
But is recreational cannabis legal in Luxembourg or not? Let’s find out.
Current cannabis laws in Luxembourg
As of now, cannabis cultivation, processing, distribution and sale are still illegal in Luxembourg. Further, the country’s laws do not differentiate between small-scale and large-scale drug deals, so individuals who trade cannabis risk prison sentences that vary from one year to up to 20 years, depending on the aggravating circumstances. Dealing drugs near schools or selling drugs that cause severe health damage can lead to increased prison time.
Cannabis possession and use were decriminalised back in 2001 when the country’s government classified cannabis as a Category B substance. Nowadays, individuals who are caught using or possessing small quantities of marijuana in Luxembourg risk fines that vary between €250 and €2,500, depending on the quantity.
However, individuals who possess large quantities of cannabis (without distribution intent) or who use cannabis can still end up in prison under certain circumstances. Using cannabis near schools or in the presence of a minor are considered serious offences, and they will probably lead to prison sentences.
Even so, Luxembourg’s lawmakers encourage recovery and favour it over punishment. If cannabis users demonstrate that they are actively seeking help by attending a treatment program or by entering a rehab, their sentence might be reduced, sometimes to a fine.
What about cannabis legalisation? When will it come to Luxembourg?
Luxembourg’s government announced that it will make recreational cannabis completely legal. The country’s Health Minister, Etienne Schneider, said that young people are already buying weed on the black market, getting weed of unknown quality and coming in contact with drug dealers who might push other drugs.
Schneider also said that ‘this drug policy we had over the last 50 years did not work’ and that ‘forbidding everything made it just more interesting to young people.’
The legislation proposed by Schneider and Luxembourg’s Justice Minister, Félix Braz, would make the entire cannabis market legal. The state would issue licences for cannabis production and distribution, and it would regulate cannabis consumption. The bill would ban home cultivation and will most likely make it illegal for people under a certain age — probably 18 or 21 — to buy cannabis.
The state would license two domestic producers to grow cannabis and would authorise 14 private shops to sell it. The shops would not be allowed to operate near schools, and retailers would pay a tax to get their licence. They would be taxed differently, much like those who sell tobacco products, and the taxes and fees could be used in prevention campaigns.
The proposed bill would not allow cannabis consumption in public or in places where smoking bans apply. Cannabis shops would only be open between noon and 8 PM and they would not be allowed to sell alcohol or tobacco products. Cannabis products would be sold at prices set by the government of Luxembourg and they would most likely have a low to medium tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content.
Advertising or selling cannabis online would be prohibited. Consuming cannabis in or near cannabis shops would also be barred.
Schneider also said that the law would prohibit non-residents from buying cannabis as a way to avoid drug tourism.
However, Schneider admits that regulating the new market will be difficult, especially since about 200,000 people travel to the small country of Luxembourg for work on a daily basis. And that’s exactly why the country’s neighbours are worried.
Luxembourg’s neighbours might not be happy with its cannabis legalisation procedure
Even if Schneider’s law tries to limit the access of tourists to cannabis, cannabis tourism will still flourish once weed becomes legal. And that will put more pressure on Luxembourg’s border control. But Luxembourg’s cannabis legalisation will also affect the illegal drug trade in the neighbouring counties.
As Luxembourg’s legal market will expand and become more popular, it will probably displace the illegal drug dealers. Individuals who have been dealing with drugs illegally in the small country will most likely be pushed out because the legal competition would attract and serve their clients.
But individuals who have the connections to trade marijuana are not likely to call quits and retire once Luxembourg legalises cannabis. They’re more likely to move their entire operations to a neighbouring country. Now, EU citizens sometimes see themselves as a big happy family, but drug dealers might not be so thrilled to share their territory with new competitors.
The displacement of Luxembourg’s drug dealers might increase the pressure law enforcement agencies of neighbouring countries have to face on a daily basis.
And cannabis legalisation also brings another aspect into view. By legalising marijuana, Luxembourg will set a precedent in EU law. That precedent will surely convince politicians in other EU member states to debate the legalisation issue.
Luxembourg’s answer to this problem? Well, Schneider asked the country’s EU neighbours to relax their drug laws as well. And Schneider’s point is a valid one. European countries have tried to ban cannabis consumption, but the current approach is not working.
Legalising marijuana and controlling the entire cannabis market, from seed to spliff, could be the only valid solution to stop the illegal cannabis trade in Europe.
When will you be able to enjoy legal marijuana in Luxembourg?
Cannabis legalisation is not something you can do overnight. You need to build infrastructure — approve growers, distributors and sellers. You also need to set laws and regulations, educate consumers and law enforcement officers and more.
The legalisation process is a lengthy one, but Luxembourg has already started it, and its taking small but precise steps toward the finish line. And, according to the current government coalition, the law should pass by 2023, which would make Luxembourg the first EU country to legalise recreational cannabis consumption.