Of Europe’s 44 countries, 27 countries allow for medical marijuana. But there is currently just one country that has legalized recreational cannabis: Malta. In 2021, Malta became the first EU member to allow adults to carry up to 7 grams and grow up to four plants at home. Perhaps we will see Malta start to join the canna-tourism game like the Netherlands.
Like the U.S. and other countries, Europe allows low-THC cannabis products. In the U.S., cannabis containing 0.3% THC or less is considered hemp, and cannabis containing more than 0.3% THC is considered marijuana. In the European Union, products containing 0.2% THC or less are legal in most European countries. Products including any trace of THC are banned from commercialization in countries such as France, Sweden, Norway, and the U.K.
Cannabis in Ireland
Ireland’s conservative government is reflected in the country’s medical cannabis program, which is one of the more restrictive medical cannabis programs in Europe. One aspect that is often criticized is that the program does not include those suffering from chronic pain. But there is plenty of room for hope. In May 2021, a poll found that nearly 40% of Irish citizens supported the legalization of cannabis for recreational use. In that poll, it was also found that over 90% of Irish citizens were in favor of the medical marijuana program.
Similar to many other countries, there are several legislation gaps or loopholes to purchasing and growing cannabis for personal use. It’s legal to buy and sell cannabis seeds in Ireland. You can also legally receive them in the post from other countries. However, using them to grow cannabis plants is illegal.
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Misuse of Drug Act Reform
The newest bill submitted to allow recreational or legal cannabis use will modify the Misuse of Drug Act. The bill aims to change into effect in 1977 by enabling adults at least 18 years of age to possess up to 7 grams of cannabis or 2.5 grams of cannabis resin (hashish). The Irish Parliament (or Oireachtas) will discuss a bill introduced by the People Before Profit MP (or Teachta Dála, TD) Gino Kenny aiming to legalize adult-use cannabis for personal use.
Kenny stated that “the present laws on criminalization do not work.” Kenny also mentioned that many countries in Europe and beyond have reformed their cannabis policy or are in the process of doing so. The bill presented by Kenny states that possession of up to 7 grams of cannabis use by adults aged 18 and older “shall be lawful.” Kenny referred to the legislation as a decriminalization measure. The lawmaker said the legislation would amend Ireland’s unsuccessful policy of total cannabis prohibition.
It is reported that almost 30% of adults between the age of 15 and 64 in Ireland have said that they have used cannabis at least once in their lifetime. It was also reported that 17% of adults had used cannabis in the last 12 months, over double the European average of 7%. The bill’s sponsor, Kenny, said, “Even though it is illegal in Ireland, we can see that the use of cannabis has increased. Ireland has one of the highest usage rates of cannabis in the EU.”
Another concern of the government with the legalization of recreational cannabis is if will will “glamorize” its use. In response, Kenny stated, “I think we have to be careful that we don’t glamorize cannabis either because there are real concerns within the health community and the medical community about what cannabis can do to young people.” Kenny also added that he would support a more healthcare-based approach to addiction and warned about the potential harms posed by cannabis.