PHOTO Flavio Ensiki
If pressed, most Americans would likely be unable to locate on a map the Grand Dutchy of Luxembourg, Europe’s richest country by GDP — if for no other reason than a large projection is required to spot the tiny nation of 613,000 people sandwiched between Belgium, Germany and France.
Roughly the size of the Washington, D.C. metro area — and with a population about on par with Oakland, California — Luxembourg is suddenly very relevant in mainstream drug-policy reform circles. If all goes according to plan, the duchy may be the first nation in Europe to legalize recreational cannabis for adults — or at least some adults, all of whom will be Luxembourg citizens, and who may enjoy fewer rights than those adults in Oakland and Washington, D.C.
POLITICO was the first to report that Etienne Schneider, Luxembourg’s health minister, was cooking up a cannabis legalization plan in tandem with Felix Braz, the justice minister, to present to the country’s Parliament this fall.
No legislation has yet been drafted. But if the verbal plan is approved by the country’s governing coalition — a likely scenario given that the governing coalition’s platform calls for cannabis legalization within five years — Luxembourg citizens would be allowed to purchase and consume cannabis produced under a tightly regulated framework within two years, Schneider told reporters.
That would make Luxembourg the first country outside of the Americas to legalize the drug at the national level, but both would-be cannabis tourists and libertarians should prepare to be disappointed: Consistent with Luxembourg’s “let us be” mentality towards the rest of Europe, cannabis would not be available for foreign visitors. This is a specific prohibition to prevent the country from becoming a hotspot for “drug tourism” — and home cultivation of the plant would also be outlawed.
For these reasons, anyone planning a trip to Amsterdam or Barcelona, where cannabis is available in decriminalized coffee shops and social clubs (and in abundance!) should not change their plans much, or perhaps even become overly excited.
Still, Luxembourg does plan to become only the third country in the world to legalize recreational marijuana on the national level, following Uruguay and Canada.
Eleven U.S. states have also legalized cannabis for adults 21 and over. Those of us with maps will be aware that most of them are much larger than Luxembourg.
One bright spot is that Luxembourg, with its advanced finance-heavy economy, doesn’t need to treat cannabis like an ATM machine. Schneider’s rationale for legalization: Banning cannabis in accordance with European Union and United Nations conventions on narcotic drugs hasn’t worked at all and may have only made cannabis more attractive to the young people.
“After decades of repressive policies, we have acknowledged that this policy does not work, that it did not meet expectations,” he told Euronews. “So it’s time to change mindsets, change our concepts and try something else.”
As The Guardian reported, legalization is something that’s been on Schneider’s mind for some time. Schneider and Braz both visited Canada last year, where they toured a Canopy Growth Corporation outlet. Apparently, not everything they saw in Canada impressed them, or they would not be pushing a strict legalization scheme that might trigger outrage and an opposition campaign among most U.S.-based cannabis activists.
Other details yet to be hammered out in Luxembourg include where cannabis can legally be consumed and how heavily it will be taxed. Possession is likely to be limited to no more than 30 grams at a time.
So, is Luxembourg’s scheme wack? It’s not awesome and it’s not necessarily more impactful than any substantive change towards medical cannabis in, say, the United Kingdom. At the same time, if a very successful country legalizes with no ill effects, it’s an example that can be presented in the positive in other larger arenas. Just think of it as an opportunity to scale.
TELL US, are you surprised Luxembourg might legalize cannabis only for its citizens?
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