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Luxembourg legalises cannabis: The first domino in the EU market?

Ever heard of gedoogbeleid? Likely not, but it’s the reason you were able to toke up on your vacation to Amsterdam, Netherlands, where—surprise—cannabis is not actually legal. It’s a term for the “blind eye” the Dutch authorities and government turn to the distribution and possession of cannabis and what has fooled foreigners for years into thinking their Dutch bud was “legal”—whoops!

Up until recently, the Netherlands have held the standard for what relaxed drug laws look like in Europe, but this month, Luxembourg raised the bar and announced plans to be the first country in the European Union (EU) to legalize cannabis.

Perhaps the most surprising insight from this announcement is the reasoning behind it. Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Economy and Minister of Health Étienne Schneider said the change comes from observations within the government that acknowledge the current legal framework around cannabis hasn’t been successful.

“After decades of repressive policies, we have acknowledged that this policy does not work, that it did not meet expectations. So it's time to change mindsets, change our concepts and try something else,” said Schneider.

So, move over Netherlands. Looks like Luxembourg might be the real MVP.

While most of Europe’s rules still remain conservative, we’ve seen some countries take their first step towards legalization, with Germany, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands and U.K. all legalizing medical cannabis, while France and Spain are on track to follow suit.

Despite this, Schneider has been clear that Luxembourg doesn’t intend to meddle in the national policies of their European neighbours, but he hopes to have a “positive impact.” Over the coming months, he will meet with his counterparts, including those in France, Belgium and Germany, to discuss Luxembourg’s new drug policy and his observations of the cannabis industry in Canada and in the U.S.

Schneider hopes “all of us will get a more open-minded attitude toward drugs,” which begs an important question: will the changes in Luxembourg mark a shift to a more progressive outlook in Europe?

Will this be a turning point for the EU? Maybe this is the first domino of many that leads to the opening of the biggest cannabis market in the world.

Only time will tell. But as it stands, there is little harmony across the EU and navigating the various regulations requires finding a trusted partner who has an in-depth understanding of the governmental, social and economic forces at play.

As part of the AVENIR GLOBAL network, NATIONAL’s extensive Public Affairs practice is connected to partner offices in Europe and across the world. Our cannabis industry experts can provide you with the strategy and insights you need to expand into, invest in and navigate the ever-changing cannabis market in the EU.