The legal status of cannabis, its derivatives and its uses is far from being a model of harmony on the old continent. Here is an overview of the different legislations, most of them almost permanent, within the European community.
The spectrum of cannabis uses is wide. Four main uses stand out: medical use, recreational use, wellness use related to CBD products and industrial hemp exploitation. Due to the controversial status of cannabis, these uses are sometimes prohibited, condemned or encouraged. Indeed, several factors can determine whether a cannabis derivative is legally available for consumption and purchase, or not. Thus, each country looks at and welcomes these uses differently depending on its drug policy, while keeping the general EU regulations as a guideline.
You want to know the legal status of cannabis and its derivatives in the EU countries? We offer you a legislative tour on the issue.
Reminder regarding the UE cannabis/CBD legislation
According to EU (European Union) legislation, hemp grown for “fiber” is legal if its THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) content does not exceed 0.2% or less. This provision is specified in Council Regulation (EC) No. 1672/2000 of 27 July 2000.
While cannabis is decriminalized in some countries, in the majority of cases, EU member states maintain a rather hostile attitude towards cannabis and especially towards recreational cannabis.
Regarding CBD, until recently there were no restrictions on the subject in EU regulations. However, EU legislation has moved towards some restriction. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), published new guidelines in January 2019 that affect cannabinoid-enriched foods: “If CBD is to be considered a food additive, it will need to be filed as a novel dietary ingredient.
All products containing CBD must now be approved by a national food authority as a “novel food”. These new guidelines are not mandatory, but some EU member states have already amended their CBD laws accordingly.
EU legislation update country by country
Ready for a tour of cannabis/CBD legislation in the EU in 2021?
The legalization of medical cannabis has been in effect in Germany since March 2017. Thanks to it, patients suffering from serious illnesses can be treated with cannabis-based medicines on prescription. As for CBD-based products, they are also legal, but only if the THC content does not exceed 0.2%. On the other hand, the German federal drug law prohibits recreational cannabis, although it tolerates the possession and consumption of small quantities.
Austrian law only prohibits psychotropic cannabis. The use of medical cannabis has been permitted since 2008. There are no restrictions on CBD, which is also legal. Authorized CBD products must not exceed the threshold of 0.3% THC. Even better than the majority of other EU members who stagnate at 0.2%.
Under laws dating back to 1912, in Belgium anything extracted from the cannabis plant is illegal. Unless prescribed by a doctor, buying/selling or consuming CBD products is illegal. Medical CBD is allowed but only with a prescription. Apart from that, you can be prosecuted for possessing CBD products, even if they do not contain THC. The production, distribution, and sale of medical cannabis remains prohibited.
In 2019, Belgium announced that CBD flowers with less than 0.2% THC content are now considered tobacco products.
In Bulgaria, CBD products are available over the counter as long as they contain less than 0.2% THC. In fact, it was the first EU country to issue a certificate for the sale of CBD in open markets.
In Croatia you can legally import and buy CBD cannabis as long as the THC content does not exceed 0.2%. Also, medical cannabis has been legal since 2015. Patients suffering from pathologies related to AIDS, multiple sclerosis or cancer can be treated in pharmacies with a prescription. Similarly, the cultivation of industrial hemp is authorized. However, it is illegal to smoke cannabis in public places. Possession, even in small quantities, is forbidden.
Cypriot legislation allows the cultivation and marketing of whole plants or parts of plants or seeds of the species Cannabis sativa with a THC concentration not exceeding 0.2%. Producers and/or suppliers of industrial hemp must obtain a license. Convicted cancer patients are allowed to use cannabis oil for their palliative care.
Under Danish law, the use of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes is still restricted. Under current law, you must have a prescription from a doctor to consume cannabis in any form. Therefore, CBD in Denmark is currently only available with a doctor’s prescription.
Spain is one of the most divisive countries in terms of cannabis legislation. Cannabis-based therapeutic treatments remain prohibited, except in Catalonia where Sativex has been authorized since 2013.
While industrial hemp is allowed, only the Cannabis Sativa L variety can legally be produced, sold and consumed. Similarly, only CBD products from industrial hemp are legal. Only, as in the EU, CBD products in Spain must not contain more than 0.2% THC.
In terms of decriminalization, Spain is one of the few countries where the private use of cannabis is legalized. However, the use, purchase, possession, sale and import of cannabis in public is illegal.
The government prohibits therapeutic claims on online purchases of CBD products.
Estonia is the only one of the Baltic countries to have legalized medical cannabis. However, cannabinoid-based medication remains highly regulated. Under Estonian law, psychotropic drugs are illegal. CBD, however, escapes the psychotropic class and can be used legally.
The Finnish law on psychoactive substances is quite restrictive. Thus, although the law allows for therapeutic cannabis, requests for cannabinoid medication are handled on a case-by-case basis. CBD is legal in the sense that it is not listed as a prohibited substance.
Is cannabinoid-based medication legal in France? Yes, with Sativex, dronabinol (Marinol) or synthetic THC. But these medications have not been very conclusive. Therefore, a new decree of October 7, 2020 authorizes a new experimentation of therapeutic cannabis in 5 indications.
However, French legislation remains rather hostile to THC. And it has long been rather unclear on the uses of CBD products.
The 0.2% THC level was one of the main points that fueled the legal vagueness around CBD uses. In fact, France authorizes the cultivation of a restrictive list of hemp varieties with a THC level not exceeding 0.2%. Similarly, any extraction of cannabonoids was prohibited. Today, it is by virtue of a 2018 CJEU ruling that the sale of CBD products has been revived. A more precise legal development was expected.
It fell through a decision of the Court of Cassation that legalizes cannabidiol and hemp flowers legally produced in the EU. In this decision of June 23, 2021, the Court of Cassation states that “the prohibition of the marketing of products containing CBD cannot be ordered in the absence of proof that they fall into the category of narcotics.
Under Greek law, CBD is excluded from drug control. CBD products are allowed if they contain less than 0.2% THC.
Hungarian law does not explicitly restrict CBD. According to Hungarian law, cannabis containing less than 0.2% THC is considered hemp. Therefore, CBD is legal in Hungary.
Under Irish law, cannabis varieties containing THC up to 0.2% are permitted. Extraction methods such as the use of CO2 or solvents is illegal. Therefore CBD oil is legal if and only if it is obtained by cold pressing.
In Italy, it has been possible to buy medical cannabis in pharmacies since 2007. As of 2017, the Italian law introduces “provisions favoring the cultivation of industrial hemp . The goal is to re-inscribe the country as a major player in the industrial cultivation of hemp and CBD products. Industrial hemp can be grown if the THC content is 0.5% or less. In 2016, the Italian government legalized the sale and consumption of CBD. In 2018, high CBD light cannabis with less than 0.5% THC was legalized.
Latvian cannabis legislation is aligned with EU legislation on industrial hemp. Therefore the country allows the sale of CBD products with THC limited to 0.2%. Cannabinoid medication is not allowed.
Lithuania adheres to the general EU law on hemp. CBD products can be legally purchased in Lithuania as long as they contain less than 0.2% THC. Like Latvia, Lithuania does not allow medical cannabis.
Under Luxembourg law, cannabis is legal if it contains less than 0.3% THC. CBD in Luxembourg is therefore legal. Similarly, medical cannabis has been legal since 2018.
In Malta, to use cannabis for therapeutic purposes, a prescription is required. In 2015, Maltese laws placed restrictions on cannabis and CBD. Under Maltese law, cannabinoid extraction from any form of cannabis (marijuana or hemp) remains subject to the Drug Dependence Act of 2018.
One immediately thinks of Amsterdam known for its relaxed policy towards cannabis consumption. But this tolerance of cannabis is only apparent because Indian hemp (with THC) is “really” illegal. However, you do not risk prosecution in the famous dedicated cafes. You can’t consume more than 5 grams of cannabis at a time. Because hemp seeds and CBD are not explicitly covered by Dutch drug legislation, CBD hemp seed oil is legal in the Netherlands.
According to the laws in Poland, there are no legal restrictions preventing the use of CBD. Hemp cultivation is limited to varieties with less than 0.2% THC. Since June 2017, the therapeutic use of cannabis is allowed with a medical prescription.
Portugal is a pioneer in terms of laws supporting cannabis use. Although personal use of cannabis has been legal since 2001, medical cannabis has only been legalized since 2018. The country has great market potential and sales of CBD products are steadily increasing.
According to Czech law, CBD products must not contain more than 0.3% THC. Below this threshold hemp and CBD products can be purchased and consumed freely in the Czech Republic. The country is one of the few countries that have decriminalized cannabis subject to THC limits.
Romanian laws do not explicitly prohibit CBD derived from hemp. Buying or consuming CBD products is legal in Romania as long as THC levels are below 0.2%. Medical cannabis, although authorized since 2013, must also respect the 0.2% THC limit. This represents a hindrance to the development of the commercial medical cannabis industry which does not benefit patients. They have to turn to other countries, especially to get Sativex.
Slovakia has no regulations on medical cannabis. CBD is listed as a psychoactive drug. For the time being, Slovak law is clear and states that CBD and its oil are illegal.
According to Slovenian law only the cultivation, possession, processing, sale and distribution of cannabis with a THC content of more than 0.2% is prohibited. Therefore, CBD products with a THC content of less than 0.2% are completely legal. Cultivation legislation requires a low THC content of less than 0.2%. CBD oil is legal in Slovenia for consumption.
Swedish drug legislation is one of the most restrictive in Europe. Products containing THC, regardless of the quantity, are classified as narcotics. CBD, on the other hand, is no longer considered a drug but a medicine. Therefore, by law, oral CBD products require a license from the Medicines Agency to be sold. On the medical cannabis side, only Sativex is accepted as a cannabinoid-based medication. However, candidates for this medication must be referred to a doctor who must in turn receive approval from the Medicines Agency.
Several EU countries have undertaken a parliamentary reflection to change the legislation on cannabis and especially on medical cannabis. The next few years should be interesting in terms of legal developments around cannabis and especially CBD.…