Much like the United States, Europe is currently figuring out how to incorporate psychedelic therapy into its healthcare landscape most effectively. A lobby group representing developers and professionals within the industry advocates for including seasoned practitioners as integral members of a “multidisciplinary advisory body.” They would serve as a guiding authority, offering essential insights to regulators and healthcare practitioners regarding optimal practices as the field expands and changes. This effort comes from the European Psychedelic Access Research and European Alliance (PAREA), as reported by Politico, as per a briefing document slated for submission to the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
It basically says that those with actual experience with psychedelics should have influence. In both legal cannabis and psychedelics space, there is often a feeling that those with an actual relationship with the substance, rather than simply a desire to profit from it, makes for better business.
Europe still needs to legalize any psychedelic treatments. However, as Australia and parts of the United States are already offering psychedelic therapy, many lawmakers in Europe want to be prepared to hit the ground running. Having such an advisory board (with people who have experience with these substances) will make psychedelic treatment easier to implement.
In July, Australia became the first country in the world to authorize psilocybin and MDMA use through a doctor’s prescription to treat mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. Both were legalized for therapeutic use.
In 2019, Denver, Colorado, became the first U.S. city to decriminalize psilocybin. Cities such as Oakland, Santa Cruz, and Washington D.C. have followed suit. In 2020, Oregon both decriminalized it and legalized supervised therapeutic use, with Colorado passing a similar law in 2022.
Psilocybin remains illegal under federal law.
Ketamine, which is technically a (legal) dissociative anesthetic with hallucinogenic properties, is FDA-approved for treatment-resistant depression in the U.S. under as “esketamine,” the S enantiomer of ketamine, as that’s how Johnson & Johnson could patent and sell it under the brand name Spravato. Often, doctors prescribe an off-label actual ketamine nasal spray that one can have made in a compound pharmacy.
A study by the American Medical Association, published late last month, found growing evidence that psilocybin, the mind-altering ingredient in magic mushrooms, is a potentially effective treatment for those suffering from depression. Psilocybin is also being tested to treat people with anorexia.
MDMA is currently being studied with successful results for its capacity to treat PTSD, among other mental health conditions.
Such substances would be under review of the proposed multidisciplinary advisory body. Before an upcoming EMA workshop on psychedelic treatments, PAREA urged the regulator to provide centralized leadership for the practical and clinical aspects of these therapies, including their delivery methods.
Unlike conventional pills, such as SSRI antidepressants, psychedelics require a comprehensive regimen of pre- and post-care, as well as support during the experience itself. PAREA wants to ensure that this care is uniformly standardized, drawing upon consensus from a diverse group of stakeholders.
In psychedelic spaces, this pre- and post-care is known as integration, or the belief that one needs more than the drug itself. Integration typically involves therapy before the trip and afterwards, helping one take what they learned and “integrate” it into everyday life. One may also need more than one session or return for boosters, as with ketamine IV therapy and other psychedelic therapies. Even within recreational psychedelic spaces, many people use a “trip sitter,” or at least one trusted person to abstain and look after them.
An EU advisory body “would benefit from the collective knowledge of various stakeholders, including the EMA, [the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction], national competent authorities, professional organizations, health care professionals and managers, psychedelic organizations, patients’ organizations, drug developers, and the wider community,” the briefing states.
PAREA told POLITICO these professional organizations could include the Open Foundation and the Beckley Academy in the Netherlands and the Mind Foundation in Germany. These groups train therapists in psychedelics using the latest research from institutions like Imperial College London and Johns Hopkins University. Some programs include experiential learning (getting high) on substances like psilocybin or ketamine. The Beckley group teaches people to “navigate non-ordinary states to better serve your clients,” and also runs psilocybin retreats.
“The importance of ensuring that the therapeutic model adopted is evidence-based and in the best interest of the patients cannot be overstated,” the lobby group’s briefing states.
PAREA also advocates for the EMA to ensure consistent delivery strategies throughout Europe. “Centralized coordination would offer an efficient mechanism to propel the field forward, rather than individual EU countries initiating their own work groups,” it states.
Meanwhile, setting the stage for future generations, psychedelic knowledge and industry are now being taken seriously in academia. Last month, the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for the Science of Psychedelics launched a free online course titled “Psychedelics and the Mind.” The new class is another expansion (and win) for the Center, launched three years ago. The course will be available for free.
Copenhagen, Denmark’s autonomous neighborhood commune of Christiania (or Freetown Christiania) has tolerated soft drug use for decades on Pusher Street, its main market, but a recent shooting might complicate things for its open hash trade.
On Sept. 4, the mayor of Copenhagen on Monday urged foreign tourists not to buy cannabis in the city’s Christiania neighborhood after a man was killed. Instead of selling cannabis in a regulated retail model as seen in legal U.S. states, cannabis is sold from unregulated dealers like a street drug there. A “bloody feud” between the Hells Angels and Loyal to Family erupted in the culmination of turf wars over cannabis and drug trade.
“The spiral of violence at Christiania is deeply worrying,” Copenhagen Mayor Sophie Hæstorp Andersen said. She called on “the hundreds of thousands of visiting tourists and the many new foreign students who have just moved to Copenhagen to stay away and refrain from buying weed or other drugs at Pusher Street.”
ABC News reported that on Aug. 26, two masked gunmen opened fire inside a building in Christiania, Copenhagen police spokesman Poul Kjeldsen told the media. One man, age 30, was killed in the shooting and four others were injured. As of Tuesday, one of those injured was in critical but stable condition, while the others had minor injuries.
On Friday, a 28-year-old man, affiliated with the Loyal To Family gang was arrested in relation to the shooting. The Hells Angels have been active in the area, taking advantage of the drug trade freedoms, since the ‘80s.
Earlier this year, the mayor threatened to close Pusher Street’s drug trade if the 1,000 or so people living in the Christiania commune comply with her plan to reduce violence. (The neighborhood’s population fluctuates between 700-1,000.) Hæstorp Andersen told local paper Ekstra Bladet last May that growing violence has to end or she will shut down cannabis and drug trade in Christiania. The mayor’s warning, however, doesn’t seem to be working.
Christiania remains one of Copenhagen’s top tourist attractions, with major hippie appeal, and many of the visitors are from foreign countries, wanting to get a taste of tolerated hash trade. It’s the Danish Amsterdam in many senses.
High Times writer Snake Blissken reported in 2017 that the going rate on Pusher Street is 100 kroner—about $15 USD—for 1.5 grams of hash and/or cannabis flower. That’s close to the common $10 per gram price for flower in some U.S. states. Most of the stalls were reported to have various forms of pre-rolls for sale. In that person’s experience, one stall tried to get 200 kroner for a 1.5 gram sack, before quickly backing down to the standard going price.
“It may seem innocent to buy weed for a festive night out but think about the fact that your money ends up in the pockets of criminal gangs who shoot in our streets and put innocent people in danger,” Hæstorp Andersen said.
One particular shooting in 2016 led to public outcry because it involved a police officer who was gravely wounded with a head shot. Before this, the entire nation had not seen a police shooting since 1995. Violence is particularly uncharacteristic of the country.
What is Christiania?
Christiania was transformed from a Naval base on the island of Amager in Copenhagen into a hippie commune when they began squatting in the former military barracks of Bådsmandsstræde in 1971.Squatters began taking upon a more serious anarchist agenda and gathered to establish their own laws, autonomous to the Danish government. On Sept. 16,1971, Christiania was declared to be free by Jacob Ludvigsen, a journalist and provo anarchist. You merely have to walk over bridges over Copenhagen’s canals to get there.
Christiania banned cars from the neighborhood, though there are now a few parking spots for a limited number of vehicles. You can also find alternative architecture, free from housing codes, such as a house made entirely of glass. The neighborhood was once peaceful, but violence has increased in recent years. In 2021, a man was shot and killed at the entrance to Pusher Street. Then last October, a man selling cannabis from booths on the same street was shot and killed.
While Denmark is one of the most liberal places on the planet, implementing LGBTQ rights since 1933, cannabis is illegal. Christiania is another story, however, and the law is rarely, but occasionally enforced there.
Per Denmark’s Euphoriants Substances Act—it is illegal to import, export, sell, purchase, deliver, receive, produce, and process cannabis in Denmark. While personal use is not illegal, as of 2016, with the passing of the Consolidated Act on Controlled Substances, possession of cannabis in Denmark is illegal. As with most European countries, hashish is a popular form of cannabis and it’s often mixed with tobacco.
In 2023, more Americans than ever traveled to Barcelona, Spain to attend the week-long festivities surrounding Spannabis. For years now, weed enthusiasts of the world have been gathering at this international cannabis event to meet, break bread, and share techniques. As society continues to focus its gaze on cannabis, the bridges they’ve been building are starting to show up all over social media. This year, along with plates of jamón and a peek at La Sagrada Família cathedral, there was one other must-have on everyone’s lists—the hash.
The week surrounding Spannabis plays host to a dazzling array of competitions, most with multiple categories for hash. Full melt, dry sift, cold cure, fresh press, and just about every kind of resinous expression you can imagine was on display at the judges’ tables and throughout the city’s numerous social clubs where members can consume cannabis safely off of the street. The grey area laws surrounding cannabis in Spain say you can consume privately, but that clubs cannot operate for profit, meaning the things you pick up there are part of your member services. Barcelona in particular has been attracting hashmakers from all over the world and creating a buzz for the level of quality they’re pushing out. To properly talk about hash culture in Barcelona and where it’s going next, we spoke with some highly respected voices in the community.
The Heart of Hash
Doc Hazed is a well-known name that’s secured multiple awards this year for full melt, dry sift, and rosin. According to him, “the heart of the hash scene in Spain, or even Europe, is in Barcelona.” He first came to Spain in 2016 from Italy, where he taught himself how to make hash by studying message boards and forums. For him, moving to Barcelona was crucial to working with the quality and quantity of material he needed to reach a higher degree of success. Over the last few years, he said the work he’s seen, specifically with ice water hash and rosin, has been “raised to another level.”
Around five years ago, he noticed a lot of people switching to processing fresh frozen material.
“After the switch, the full melt that started coming out was better than anything else on the scene,” he said. “Some of the social clubs around the city started adding high-quality dry sift and water hash to their menus and this got a whole crowd of smokers interested in trying higher quality hash.”
As these patrons of the arts grew to understand the effort and costs involved, they were willing to pay a little more. Demand started to grow and over time these resin artists were able to increase production and stabilize costs so that more people could try some at their local club.
One of these social clubs was HQ, where David Madilyan runs not only one of Barcelona’s premiere smoking spots but also its in-house rosin brand and a competition that brings worldwide players in to compete in a single category. For Madilyan, the goal has always been to provide access to these kinds of products. Over the years HQ has become a place known for promoting, offering, and celebrating rosin. When he first opened the doors of the club he had already been a longtime fan of dabbing. Even back then, making rosin with a hair straightener, he could tell this was the wave of the future for cannabis smokers.
To help bring rosin and full melt further into view, he’s had a string of talented hashmakers come work with the club to make sure the menu always has some for members to try out. After their most recent star finished his tenure and left to create his own brand, Madilyan thought about all the time he’d spent working alongside these artisans. He decided to launch a line of products he would press under the name Babushka Farms as a way to show the people who visit HQ what good material can do when it’s met with what he calls “a passion for hashin’.”
Masters of Rosin, the competition HQ launched six years ago, has grown to become a respected part of the European competition lineup and brings people together to compete in a rosin-only smackdown for the crown.
“People are getting used to what it’s like to take a dab,” Madilyan said. “We’ve smoked in Spain for years now but it’s traditionally been either pure flower or traditional hash. If we look over the last 20 years at how we’ve bred thousands of strains for resin production, or how popular rosin has become in the last five years it’s obvious that hash is making some major strides in a very short period of time.”
Slite23, HQ’s former hashmaker turned solo artist, believes the internet also played a pivotal role in where things are now.
“During the pandemic, everyone was either lurking on their phone or working in the lab,” he said. “Thanks to things like Instagram, we had a chance to see what people were smoking around the world.”
Having relocated to Barcelona from Italy eight years ago, Slite23 says he witnessed this sudden explosion of content create a spike in quality along with a whole new crowd of hashmakers entering the space. What’s taken longer to catch up, he says, is the supply and demand for glass, butane, torches, and all the gear to bring in new smokers.
La Sagrada Farm, another favorite of the Barcelona community, believes recent advancements in electronic rigs and vape pens are breaking down the barrier quite a bit. The team feels these devices have helped people understand how and why we smoke hash by, as they put it, “unlocking the power of fashion and industrial design.”
Known for their insanely flavorful work, which took first at Spannabis Champions Cup and second at Masters of Rosin this year, La Sagrada’s head hashmaker and collective founder Arturo went into more detail about how full melt and rosin are cresting the hill after an uphill battle with a combination of tradition and mindset.
There’s a longstanding history of Europeans mixing hashish with tobacco and, in Arturo’s opinion, Catalonians have been at it for so long that smokers there feel like they have an innate understanding of what something should look like and how much it should cost. To him, it makes their job harder but it’s this familiarity and ease with cannabis that also makes Barcelona one of the only places they could do something like this.
“Here, even a 50-year-old taxi driver has smoked more weed and seen more drugs than you,” he joked.
In Barcelona, he said, people seem to have this idea that a higher price for these newer items is in some way due more to hype than cost. Slite23 brought up how most of the people he knows have grown up smoking Moroccan hash, with a gram running you the price of a fast-food meal. Getting someone used to a jar of hash, let alone one that can cost up to eight times more than that, takes time. Along with pricing, there’s still a stigma they’ve had to overcome. Not just with cannabis but with using a torch and all the other accessories needed to take a dab.
With it still being illegal to grow anything above personal, non-profit use, part of what makes the Spanish hash scene so special is the result of their limited cultivation space. Many find themselves producing single-source and small-batch simply by necessity. Every round has to count and there’s little room for error, so breeding and growing specifically with resin production in mind is of prime importance. Slite23 and Doc Hazed both expressed how farmers and breeders have been crucial in helping them thrive by providing reliable genetics and desirable options for the European community. This innovation and desire to keep pushing are what’s helped lead a group of them to develop something that’s begun to create a stir, bringing even more eyes to their arena—Piattella.
You’ve seen it all over the internet, this single word rattling through countless Instagram posts and memes, but what exactly is Piattella? Hassans710, a European hash brand that’s been working with the stuff since 2019 described it as the result of “cold curing full-melt [hash] to achieve a premium level of terpene retention.” Looking like a wet piece of spice cake, the growing interest in these soft bricks is something like when that awesome track you dropped four years ago suddenly goes viral on TikTok.
Speaking with Uncle’s Farm, a social club and grow operation which is accredited with its creation, Piattella (pee-ah-tell-uh) is cold cured Ice-O-Lator hash named after the Italian word piatto meaning “flat.” Adding the diminutive suffix “-ella” changes the definition to something more like “little brick,” a reference to the most popular way of presenting these concentrated hash cakes. The word has a few other meanings as well, including plate, which is why googling Piattella often brings up a list of nearby Italian restaurants. When asked if the word was spelled with one T or two, the overwhelming response was that since it’s based off of the Italian word, it should have the traditional Italian spelling. Arturo of La Sagrada Farm, which is also credited with the creation of this new form of hash, pointed out that there is also a connection to the slang term piattello, which is a clay hunting target known in English as skeet. Again, referencing that shaped appearance, which Uncle from Uncle’s Farm says is one of the steps in their cold curing process.
Each glistening loaf of Piattella is aged, full-melt hash, meaning the brick is actually made up of thousands of tiny trichomes. While it might look sticky, if you rub a dot of it between your fingers,it actually feels like wet sand. As Uncle put it, “you can dab it, drop some in a hash pipe or even roll it into a joint,” which he calls cannolos. This terpy mixture of American and European techniques has been refined over the last five years but only in the last few months has the fire been brought to a furious boil. La Sagrada referenced posts from back in 2018 and 2019 where they showed pictures of the technique in its early stages.
“We were so excited when we finally found a resin that would stay wet after curing from six star,” Arturo said. “We asked people online what they thought about curing full melt and after four months we still hadn’t seen the level of impact we thought this project could have.”
Throughout 2019 La Sagrada continued to make small batches locally as they, along with Uncle’s Farm and a few others, worked on identifying what cultivars would create the best expression of this product.
Hassans710, who apprenticed under Uncle’s Farm said that, for him, the biggest difference between this and uncured full melt is the humidity the material holds. He added how the process takes time, patience, and comprehension of resin in order to create not just a batch but also to break that down into smaller pieces. He prefers Piattella for its high level of terps and the experience of slicing into a nicely matured piece, believing that “all hash flavor, in general, translates better when it’s cured and aged properly.” When asked how he felt about the sudden explosion of interest, he asserted, “Piattella is the next big thing out there and has been for a while now. It’s about time we get to share it with the world.”
For the growing crowd of people interested in curing up a batch themselves, Uncle’s Farm summed it up like this: making Piattella is more about practice than any one specific trick or method. This was something that La Sagrada also stressed. Not all strains will make that nice, wet brick of Piattella. Arturo was clear that you have to “work with the resin on each plant to see how well the material will hold those terps and how long it can be stored before beginning to dry out.” Hashmakers who want to try this out should know that there’s a large degree of trial and error that went into compiling the list of cultivars they now know can produce the level of product that people travel to Uncle’s Farm to experience.
A Global Movement
This giant, ongoing discussion about Spain’s hash, its makers, and their techniques represents the heartbeat of a global community and shows just how highly Spain has risen in the hash scene in such a relatively short time. Not to say they weren’t already in the room with their name carved into the desk, but with over 25,000 confirmed cannabis lovers roaming the streets of Barcelona this year, many of them scarfing ham and smoking hash, the Catalan’s out of the bag. We have to stand in awe of the level of professional work that’s coming out of an area that doesn’t have the same large consumer pool we enjoy here in the states. La Sagrada said they always try to keep in mind how cannabis is a product that, in Spain, is consumed by people who don’t want to spend a lot of money on weed or dabs. In a sophisticated country that still pays on average $8 to $9 per hour, the incredible artisan products we’ve been talking about in this article might be borne from unlimited passion but they’re served to a limited crowd.
Everyone we spoke with agreed the next big push in Spain is the one toward legalization. A couple even said they’ve been standing at the gate saying “any minute now” for the last five years or more. This current system of loopholes is one that they’re happy to work with for now but there are dreams and aspirations about no longer fighting with large governing bodies about the value of what they do, or worrying about being caught delivering to the clubs. The tone seemed to be one that was hopeful but not in a rush. They’ve watched the way things have evolved elsewhere and they’re wary of losing what they’ve already built.
This current relationship between the American and Spanish hash communities has been taking root for almost a decade. Now, with people asking for a Masters of Rosin U.S. and companies offering to bring Europeans over for residencies, this connection is gaining speed like a bullet train. Slite23 said his inbox has been stuffed with new faces and requests for info about his work.
“With vaccine restrictions lifted, so many came to the city for Spannabis this year and we finally got to show all of our efforts in person after two years of waiting,” he said.
The sound of all these stories, posts, and reposts has been reverberating through the hash halls of the West and East coasts. This 4/20, Madilyan of HQ was walking down the streets of Manhattan in his Masters of Rosin hoodie and was stopped by someone who recognized the design from following NorCal hashmaker Professor Sift.
There’s history being made on the streets beneath the breathtaking La Sagrada Família cathedral, one that no doubt will be part of Europe’s advancement into the next age of cannabis. Whether it’s full melt, dry sift, rosin, or Piattella, the solventless scene around Barcelona is a lightning rod—attracting a renaissance of resin that’s inspiring and reminding us of the love and passion that brought us here in the first place. Whatever they do next, the world will be watching.
This article was originally published in the July 2023 issue of High Times Magazine.
In Switzerland, a pilot program called “Züri Can – Cannabis with Responsibility” officially began on Aug. 22 and will run for three years, concluding in 2026. According to Swissinfo, a multilingual news source based in Sweden, participants may purchase cannabis at nine pharmacies and six social clubs, but can only consume them in private rooms, or in one of the designated social clubs.
The study includes 1,200 pre-approved participants (80% of which are men, ranging between 18 to 80 years of age) who are permitted to purchase legal cannabis. In order to apply, these participants were required to meet specific criteria, including living in one of the 12 districts of Zurich, having already consumed cannabis regularly for more than a year, having good knowledge of German, do not work as a professional driver (taxi, bus, etc.) in any capacity, and are not currently pregnant. Although the study is already underway, residents who meet the criteria can still apply for a chance to participate.
Participants are required to select one supply point, or cannabis pharmacy or club, and cannot change it after it is selected. After purchasing cannabis, participants will regularly be sent online surveys to study the impact of cannabis sales, as well as how it affects consumer health. “The trial will have a broad focus to gain data on the effects of different strengths of cannabis, on what helps individuals make informed decisions and on the pros and cons of different models of sale,” said Zurich municipal health department project manager, Barbara Burri.
The pilot program was first announced back in September 2021, but the program was delayed in October 2022 due to “complexity of the project with its differen[t] reference points.” However, the program received a green light earlier this year in March, when the Zurich city government and Zurich University Hospital approved two cultivators to be used for the program: Pure Production and Swissextract.
Pure Production currently offers two concentrates, Sour Pollen and Lemon Resin, for use in the study. “Today marks the start of the sale of cannabis products for the pilot project ‘Züri Can – Cannabis with Responsibility,’” Pure Production published on Instagram. “As proud partners, we’re elated to be part of this groundbreaking initiative. Pure Production AG has the honor to provide two distinct hash products and, in the near future, flower offerings, furthering our commitment to excellence and quality.”
On Swissextract’s website, the company describes its cannabis cultivation operation, which includes 2,500 plants grown in a 1,000 square meter greenhouse). “Three cannabis strains with an ideal cannabinoid and terpene profile were selected for the study: one with the maximum allowable THC content of 20%, one in the mid-range of 12-13%, and one that has a very balanced content of 10% THC and 10% CBD,” Swissextract wrote. The strain names include Cairo Dessert (Fruit Tartar x Sinai), Apricot Mimosa (Mimosa x Purple Apricot), and Wedding Cake (Triangle Kush x Animal Mints).
According to the Zurich study website, new products including Jurassic Gold and Grand Marais concentrates from Pure Production, and Super Lemon Haze and Sour Diesel strains from Swissextract, will become available after fall 2023.
There is also another Swizterland-based study awaiting launch, called SCRIPT (Safer Cannabis Research In Pharmacies), which is expected to begin in fall this year. The SCRIPT program received approval from the Federal Office of Public Health (BAG), the cantonal ethics committee of Bern, and ethics committee of Northwest and Central Switzerland, in May.
The study will be conducted by researchers from the University of Bern and Lucerne, and include the cities of Bern, Lucerne, and Biel. “The aim of the study is to investigate the health and social effects of a strictly regulated, non-profit-oriented sale of cannabis in pharmacies,” said SCRIPT study head Reto Auer. “Our study therefore does not aim to legalize cannabis in the free market—but to be able to address the problems caused by prohibition and the black market and to test possible harm reduction approaches, as well as a strict control of supply and distribution use demand for cannabis.”
As of July, the SCRIPT study has received 1,091 applications to participate. One SCRIPT applicant, referred to as E.S., is a 40-year -old individual who has been consuming since she was a teenager. In an interview with Swissinfo, she explained how cannabis has helped treat her menstrual pain, and is a reliable way to help her relax after work. “As a conscious consumer, I want to be able to decide what kind of cannabis to use,” she said. “Like a wine enthusiast, I want to discover the many varieties without depending on the black market.”
Swissinfo notes that it has taken more than 10 years for the SCRIPT program to finally begin. The last hurdle came in 2021 with the amendment of the Federal Act on Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances, which put regulations in place for scientific studies.
After Wednesday, the measure still must be approved by the German parliament before it becomes law, but it marks a significant step.
As the Associated Press put it, the approval by the cabinet sets the stage “for the European Union’s most populous member to decriminalize possession of limited amounts and allow members of ‘cannabis clubs’ to buy the substance for recreational purposes.”
“The legislation is billed as the first step in a two-part plan and still needs approval by parliament. But the government’s approval is a stride forward for a prominent reform project of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s socially liberal coalition, though significantly short of its original ambitions,” the Associated Press reported on Wednesday. “The bill, which the government hopes will take effect at the end of this year, foresees legalizing possession of up to 25 grams (nearly 1 ounce) of cannabis for recreational purposes and allowing individuals to grow up to three plants on their own.”
According to the AP, German residents “who are 18 and older would be allowed to join nonprofit ‘cannabis clubs’ with a maximum 500 members each,” while the “clubs would be allowed to grow cannabis for members’ personal consumption.”
The reform effort has been months in the making, with German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach spearheading the charge.
German Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir said that European law “sets us limits we must respect, but that I will also say we are pushing,” as quoted by the Associated Press.
Still, the reform is significant for what is Europe’s largest economy.
The New York Times has more background on how the weaker measure arrived before the cabinet on Wednesday, and all the obstacles it overcame along the way:
“The socially liberal coalition announced its intent to legalize recreational marijuana when it came into power in 2021, quickly finding consensus on an issue opposed for years by the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel. But implementation has proved difficult. A version of the plan introduced last year by Mr. Lauterbach would have allowed the distribution of marijuana through commercial stores. That idea was scuttled after meeting resistance from the European Union’s executive arm, the European Commission. Instead, the legislation approved on Wednesday allows distribution through the creation of licensed private cultivation associations with no more than 500 members. Members would be allowed to buy up to 25 grams — slightly less than an ounce — on any one day, but with a limit of 50 grams in a month. The German government also plans to launch a series of regional pilot programs that would allow the sale of cannabis through a small number of licensed specialty shops, in an attempt to gather more information about the effects of allowing individuals to purchase marijuana commercially.”
In the Mediterranean island of Malta, one man who was caught with cannabis 15 years ago and recently saw his case come to an end.
In June 2008, Conray Azzopardi’s apartment was raided by local police. According to Times Malta, he attempted to escape, and dropped “a bag containing cannabis wrapped in individual packets.” Police also found €250 (or approximately US$264). Azzopardi was charged for possession with the intent to traffic drugs.
According to a translated court document published on December 28, 2018, which covered the extent of Azzopardi’s case, ending with a conclusion from Magistrate Natasha Galea Sciberras sentencing Azzopardi to one year in prison and a fine of €1,000 (USD$1,096).
However, Azzopardi and his legal counsel appealed the decision, and five years later both the Malta Drug Offenders Rehabilitation Board and Caritas Malta (an organization that supports inmates who are imprisoned for crimes related to addiction) made recommendations in support of Azzopardi following the conclusion of his rehabilitation program.
The Drug Offenders Rehabilitation Board closed his case after he successfully completed his care plan. Azzopardi sought to apply for medical cannabis to treat undisclosed conditions but was rejected. The board added that if an individual receives treatment from a detox or rehabilitation center, they are no longer eligible for medical cannabis. Ultimately it recommended that Azzopardi be given assistance so that he wouldn’t resort to consuming illegal substances.
Appeals court Judge Neville Camilleri reviewed the recommendations of the Drug Offenders Rehabilitation Board and Caritas Malta and ruled that Azzopardi’s one-year prison sentence be overturned, and that, instead, he undergo a two-year probation order.
Medical cannabis has been legal in Malta since March 2018, and it became the first country in the European Union to legalize recreational cannabis in October 2021.
Azzopardi’s legal defense counsel included lawyers Franco Debono and Francesca Zarb. In November 2022, Debono posted about the state of cannabis on Facebook, noting the lack of progress for cannabis sales. “As far as I know, there aren’t any legal outlets from where one buy cannabis, which would mean that Malta is the only country in the world where you can possess cannabis but cannot purchase it legally,” Debono wrote. “I hope the government understands the gravity and the ugliness of this situation and how much responsibility should be shouldered.”
The Maltese Cannabis Authority released the details of opening a cannabis club in February 2023, and began accepting applications as of February 28, according to El Planteo.
In May 2023, Malta Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms Rebecca Buttigieg and leader of the Malta Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis (ARUC) spoke at a press conference covering new rules regarding non-profit associations who want to obtain a cultivation or distribution license for non-medical purposes.
However, cannabis business owner Andrew Bonello, who is president of ReLeaf Malta, told Business of Cannabis that ATUC is treating “cannabis like plutonium” and that more action is necessary to get the ball rolling.
“While it is positive to see totally unnecessary costs being reviewed, the overall effectiveness of the ‘fine-tuned’ regulations is yet to be seen,” Bonello said. “Many of the grassroots community and legacy growers are still finding it next to impossible to be able to set up an Association. One wonders how the aims of tackling the illicit market and implementing social justice can be achieved when the needs of those who fought for this reform are being ignored.”
As of May, there were only seven associations that had submitted applications, and 11 that had reserved the association name. Bonello stated that he expected more associations to have submitted applications and would already be operating by now. “However, we augur that the core principles of the reform are respected, acting in the best interest of the community with efforts genuinely focused on addressing social justice and human rights,” Bonello said.
German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach recently said in an interview with the Rheinische Post on August 9 that the federal cabinet will approve the proposed legalization plan for cannabis soon.
“I expect the cannabis approval to come into the cabinet next week. There will be small changes…” Lauterbach said.
When the interviewer inquired about the changes, he said that it’s up to the cabinet to determine changes. “But I can already say this much: parallel to the legislation, we will run a major campaign to draw attention to the risks of cannabis consumption,” Lauterbach continued. “Cannabis is particularly harmful to the still-growing brain. The brain is still being remodeled up to the age of 25. Anyone who consumes in this age phase is particularly harmful. My goal is that we reduce cannabis use among young people and make it safer for those who want to use it.”
The first public draft was revealed last month on July 5, which at the time Lauterbach referred to it as a “two-pillar model” that would “legalize private cultivation by adults for personal consumption as well as communal, non-commercial cultivation of cannabis in cultivation associations.”
That draft noted that adults over 18 years and older would be allowed to possess up to 25 grams of cannabis and cultivate up to three plants at home. Social clubs would also be established as places to purchase cannabis, as well as restrictions regarding location from schools. The number of clubs per city is determined by population, with one club serving every 6,000 people. Social club permits would last for up to seven years, and permit owners would be eligible to renew their permit after year five.
Lauterbach mentioned a pending educational campaign presented by the government to “draw attention to the risks” of cannabis. Some states in the U.S. have successfully launched education campaigns surrounding cannabis as well.
Back in 2019, an educational initiative was presented in the form of a game show called “Weeded Out” in Denver, Colorado. The jeopardy-style show asked teenage participants to answer questions about cannabis and promoting education.
Last April, New York launched a massive education campaign that spanned television commercials, radio ads, advertisement on public transit, social media, and billboards. It included coverage of the law, storing cannabis products safely, among other topics. “With the ‘Cannabis Conversations’ campaign, we’re following through on our commitment to provide New Yorkers with the information they need to safely navigate the new Cannabis Law,” said New York Gov. Kathy Hochul. “Education is the best tool to keep New Yorkers healthy as we continue to ramp up this safe, inclusive, and equitable industry.”
In September 2022, Connecticut launched an educational campaign to provide “people with the tools and knowledge to make informed decisions to keep their families safe,” said Gov. Ned Lamont. It included information on how to safely store cannabis, how to dispose of cannabis waste, and what to do if a child or pet accidentally consumes cannabis products, all in a variety of mediums such as videos, brochures, flyers, and social media graphics.
In October 2022, a Pennsylvania grant program provided a total of $200,000 to organizations promoting hemp education and awareness. “These grants will feed a new industry that was once a staple of Pennsylvania’s economy and is again presenting opportunities for farm income and jobs as well as new possibilities for climate-friendly, environmentally beneficial products,” said Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding.
Most recently, Oklahoma advocates ramped up awareness for a special election for State Question 820 in February with an educational video. However, voters still rejected the measure with 62% opposed and 38% in favor.
Portugal approved the decriminalization of synthetic drugs, The Portugal News reports. Portugal has had the most liberal approach to all drugs across Europe for decades. The drug strategy, put in place in 2000 andenacted in July 2001, was initially created to reduce the HIV/AIDS toll stemming from intravenous drug use cases using a harm reduction model. (In 1999, Portugal had the highest rate of HIV amongst such drug users in the European Union.) Their policy included decriminalizing personal drug possession and would influence similar efforts in places such as Oregon. And it worked, at least at drastically reducing HIV rates. As The Washington Post reports, HIV transmission rates via syringes plummeted.
However, while drugs are decriminalized for those who enjoy them, their policies maintain criminal penalties for drug trafficking. So basically, you can get in trouble if you supply, but not if you use. Anyone familiar with how drug culture works can understand that while the goal is admirable, this approach is far from perfect if the true goal is to protect the public’s health. People will always find a way to get drugs whether their suppliers get arrested or not. But what such suppliers are selling is changing.
Synthetic drugs are artificially modified from naturally-occurring substances. For example, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. The new law equates the legal approach to these substances with that of “classic drugs” like cannabis, heroin, and cocaine. The debate regarding synthetic drugs that led to their decriminalization centered on these new substances’ adverse effects on communities. While Portugal’s laws offered hope to harm reductionists worldwide, as The Washington Post notes, unfortunately, due to more recent and deadlier drugs, and other factors, the country still has drug problems. Drug use is apparently more visible on the streets than ever, and interest in offering help for substance use disorders seems to be dwindling.
“At the end of the day, the police have their hands tied,” said António Leitão da Silva, chief of Municipal Police of Porto, adding the matter now is much like the years before decriminalization was implemented in 2000.
“Twenty-seven years later, it is necessary to change the current legal framework in order to cover this new and harsh reality,” social democratic deputy Sara Madruga da Costa said, calling back to the 2000 law, adding they plan to provide a “faster response and more effective response to this complex and alarming phenomenon” which mainly affects Madeira and the Azores regions in Portugal.
Madruga da Costa says that the distinction between consumer and dealer “is fundamental” to combat the horrors of synthetic drugs by applying their current laws to newer drugs. In addition to decriminalizing synthetic drugs, the text further eliminates the criteria based on the number of doses, or amount of drugs, to distinguish between consumers and traffickers (i.e. who can get arrested). However, it still aims to differentiate one from the other, so suppliers can’t relax yet.
Cláudia Santos, deputy of the PS (Portuguese Socialist Party), noted that 23 years ago, the “historic decision” was made to decriminalize the possession of drugs for consumption in Portugal. Despite this legislature, from 2009 onward, the number of citizens convicted of crimes of consumption went up. “With this project, we want to reaffirm the option made for the prevention and treatment of consumers,” said the PS parliamentarian, considering that possessing drugs for consumption “should not be a crime,” The Portugal News reports.
Part of Portugal’s drug policy has always included treatment, and they hope to offer care more than ever, as psychiatric hospitalization due to unhealthy use of synthetic drugs has spiked, Business Insider reports. However, their system is far from perfect. There are currently year-long waits for state-funded rehabilitation treatment.
You should know that while the country developed a progressive drug policy reputation early on, cannabis remains illegal.
Albanian lawmakers on Friday approved a measure legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. The country’s parliament “voted 69-23 to allow limited and controlled growth of cannabis plants, a move harshly contested by the opposition,” according to the Associated Press.
As the AP noted, the bill’s passage is notable given Albania’s history as “a European crossroads for marijuana trafficking.”
“Marijuana growing flourished in Albania in the past as drug traffickers exploited a lack of strong governance in the post-Communist country. After coming to power in 2013, the left-wing Socialist Party government of Prime Minister Edi Rama set destroying cannabis plants as a main target,” the Associated Press reported. Over the next two years it destroyed millions of cannabis plants with an estimated market value of 7 billion euros ($8.5 billion), more than two-thirds of the country’s annual gross domestic product at that time. In 2014, a police officer was fatally shot during a crackdown on a southern village using armored personnel carriers. Police came under automatic weapon and rocket fire from drug growers. Albania is still a main route for trafficking hard drugs. Police still crack down on isolated cases of cannabis growing, but much less often than a decade ago.”
“Albanian police said Fero was using her official government ID as a security official to avoid police checkpoints and searches. During the arrest, Fero’s reported romantic partner, Leke Basha, 30, and a 17-year-old suspect, were also detained for drug trafficking offences. Two suspects on the North Macedonian side of the border, believed to have been receiving the drugs, escaped after a long manhunt, according to police.”
Albanian lawmakers began their efforts to legalize medical cannabis last summer when they drafted a proposal. As High Timesreported at the time, the draft law provided very few details on how the new medical marijuana program would be regulated.
“The object of this law is to determine the rules for the cultivation, production and controlled circulation of the cannabis plant and by-products, for medical and industrial use, through licensed entities and under the supervision of the National Agency for Control and Monitoring of the Cultivation and Processing of the Cannabis Plant for medical and industrial purposes and the Production of its By-products,” the draft law stated.
In the wake of the measure’s passage this week, it appears that little has changed. According to the Associated Press, it “was not clear how the medical cannabis will be regulated,” but the “government believes that allowing limited production of cannabis can boost tax revenue.”
Albanian law enforcement has been working to thwart the illicit drug trade in the country for years, often working in collaboration with international police.
In 2017, the Associated Press reported on “a nationwide operation to try to prevent the planting of cannabis” in Albania.
“A statement said 3,100 officers have spread out around the country checking greenhouses, old army depots and tunnels or abandoned houses where cannabis seeds and small plants may have been hidden,” the outlet reported at the time. “Last year authorities destroyed about 2.5 million marijuana plants, four times more than the year before. Many metric tons of cannabis were seized at border crossing points or from boats bound for neighboring Italy or Greece.”
While world-renowned hashmaker Frenchy Cannoli may have been a true cannabis evangelist, educating the masses on how to make high quality hash, unfortunately, the country he hailed from, France, has very different views of cannabis. Seeing how restrictive French laws on cannabis have been until very recently, it is no wonder that Frenchy left his home for greener pastures and greener buds in other countries. Read on to learn the basics of cannabis in France before your next visit to Paris.
Before getting into French cannabis laws, a word on drug trafficking. In France, like most countries, a person bringing drugs into the country on a plane can be charged with drug trafficking. A law that went into effect in 2020 was a small step towards decriminalizing cannabis possession, so long as it is less than 50 grams (roughly two ounces), there is a chance to pay a fine and avoid jail time, but it is still a criminal offense.
Nascent Medical Cannabis Industry
France began their experiments with medical cannabis in 2021, with a two-year pilot study of 3,000 patients. Given the success of their ongoing pilot study, it is no surprise that on March 1st, 2022, the French government issued a decree legalizing medical cannabis. Specifically, the decree amended the French Public Health Code allowing for the legal cultivation, production/manufacture, transportation (including import/exporting), and possession of cannabis for medical use.
That decree will lead to the birth of a French medical cannabis industry, but only once it is implemented and the National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products (ANSM) establishes the supply chain. The ANSM must also create the 11 member committee who will serve an advisory role on a number of aspects relating to medical cannabis, such as track and trace, approved methods of ingestion, and identification of cultivars.
No Medical Cannabis Reciprocity
As the medical cannabis industry in France is still in its infancy, there are no regulations that currently allow for what is known as medical cannabis reciprocity, in other words, one state or country honoring another state or country’s medical cannabis recommendation. That means that even if you have a medical cannabis recommendation that is valid another country (Canada, Germany, Israel, United States, etc.) it will not help you legally purchase or use cannabis in France. Time will tell if France will allow for some sort of reciprocity for medical cannabis patients.
Limited Progress Towards Full Legalization
France is widely regarded as having some of the most restrictive cannabis laws in Europe and while they have very recently come to embrace medical cannabis, it is moving slowly and the government is generally opposed to legalization. Like the United States, despite very restrictive cannabis laws, France’s Interior Ministry notes that it “has Europe’s second-highest consumption levels with around 900,000 daily cannabis users.” As a fellow member of the European Union, France is watching their neighbor Germany, and French Health Minister François Braun says they “will closely monitor the evolution of the German legislative framework, especially with regard to its potential impact on cross-border regions.” Frustratingly, while the United States and much of the world is trending in a positive direction on cannabis, with legalization happening fairly rapidly, things have stalled in France at the early onset of medical legalization.
A June 2021 poll by the Institut français d’opinion publique showed that 51% of French people wanted to see cannabis decriminalized, the highest percentage since the 1970s when it was first made illegal. Other survey data indicates that past year use rates and lifetime use rates in France were comparable to those of the U.S., with nearly half of the country reporting some cannabis use in their lifetime and over 10% reporting use in the past year.
CBD Flower Was Recently Legalized
With no adult use legalization in France, and no medical cannabis reciprocity, there is no legal way to consume THC-rich cannabis in France. Thankfully, the French Council of State (the French equivalent to the Supreme Court) overturned their ban on CBD-rich flower at the end of last year, allowing for the creation of a French CBD industry. That means Parisian tourists can soon be enjoying CBD-rich cannabis products, including flower. Time will tell if CBD-infused french wine and cheese will be on the menu any time soon.
Disproportionate Targeting of Muslims
Like in the U.S., the enforcement of drug laws in France has disproportionately targeted some minority groups, specifically, Muslims. Professor David Guba ran the numbers, and despite only 9% of France’s population being Muslim, the data suggests “that up to 1 in 6 prisoners in France today may be an Arab Muslim man who used, possessed or sold cannabis.”