The United Kingdom voted late last week to leave the European Union, sending shock waves around the world, putting financial markets in a tailspin, and raising questions about the future of the E.U.
But what about cannabis?
Thankfully, many European countries are continuing their reform efforts unfazed, steadily moving toward legalization and broader access for medical patients. Britain’s departure may have shaken European countries’ faith in their union, but the European desire for a more perfect union with cannabis is very much intact.
In two of the EU’s largest countries, Germany and Italy, legislation to free the herb remains a top priority for some lawmakers.
Following Britain’s vote last week to leave the E.U., Italian Senator and Deputy Foreign Minister Benedetto Della Vedova sent messages of sadness to followers on social media. But in the same breath he also reiterated the need for cannabis legalization.
“We want to win this game; we must believe in it and [we must] all work for this goal,” he said, expressing support for both legalization and the cannabis-friendly parliamentary group Intergruppo Cannabis legale. Italy’s Parliament is slated to begin debate on adult-use legalization this week.
In Germany, despite the news from the U.K. and the ensuing political confusion, plans are moving forward on a medical cannabis program that would grant patients broader access to medical cannabis and could create a medical cannabis market of tens of thousands of patients as soon as next year.
Georg Wurth, director of the Deutscher Hanfverband (German Hemp Association), the largest cannabis advocacy group in Germany, said on Friday he’s happy that the German medical cannabis bill is progressing without interruption. The bill has already been approved by the German cabinet and is now in Parliament, where it’s expected to be approved by November. It would take effect early next year.
While post-Brexit talk in the media focuses on uncertainties, Wurth noted that efforts to reform cannabis policy in other countries also continue to march forward.
In Denmark, the violent police attack on Copenhagen’s pro-cannabis neighborhood of Christiania has not quashed the cannabis movement, Wurth said. Instead it’s having the opposite effect. “The raid in Christiania has revived the pro-legalization debate” in the country, he said.
In the Czech Republic, the cannabis community largely views the E.U. as a defender of civil rights. Despite some bluster from populist politicians who’ve bashed the E.U., the overwhelming fear in the country regarding cannabis is that a weakened E.U. plays into the hands of Russia — a country with draconian drug laws.
The Kremlin has waged a steady and ruthless campaign in recent years to support right-wing extremist parties in Europe, back anti-E.U. politicians, and generally sow seeds of discontent in the continent in order to expand Russian influence, part of President Vladimir Putin’s grand vision of restoring the state’s former glory.