Medical Cannabis Trends in Europe and Around the World

The times they are changing, that’s a fact. It seems that only a short while ago the thought of legalizing cannabis anywhere in the world was a pipe dream; a fantasy that no one took seriously.

Well, that’s all about to change and within a short timespan we may see an avalanche of pro-cannabis legislation  in the USA, across the pond, and in Mexico, South America, the Caribbean, and perhaps even India. Possibly even Iran, who are considering the legalization of both cannabis and opium.

All at once, it seems politicians are suddenly realizing that the legalization of cannabis is in everyone’s best interest. For example, they now appreciate, based on Colorado’s enormous success, that the commercial cannabis industry generates obscene profits for local and state governments, while clearing out courthouses and jail cells of those arrested for simple possession.

Right now, about 700,000 people in the USA alone are arrested for cannabis violations every year. Lastly, officials realize that they can save billions of dollars that are wasted on the drug war should cannabis become legal.

What are the most likely countries to either outright legalize cannabis or allow for the legal use of medical applications? Well, it turns out there are several countries in the EU that are pushing for cannabis reform.

Since lawmakers in the USA have had a Renaissance in how they view cannabis, that attitude has drifted far and wide. It seems as if much of the entire planet has awakened.

Czech Republic

Located in the heart of Europe, the Czech Republic has already passed a medical cannabis bill in 2013. In addition, they have broadly decriminalized possession. Czech citizens can legally grow up to 5 plants. Experts predict that full legalization is just around the corner. It’s no coincidence that Prague is being called ‘New Amsterdam’.

Of course, not to take all the credit, certain hot spots in Spain are also being called ‘New Amsterdam’. This is mostly due to the proliferation of legal, private cannabis clubs. Technically, it’s still illegal to manufacture and sell cannabis, although it’s a grey area legally speaking. The private cannabis clubs are so successful that soon, Spain may take the reins and totally legalize recreationally. Only time will tell but, based on the ease at which cannabis clubs have sprouted up, and Spain’s liberal, permissive attitude toward the plant, many think that Spain will be the next to legalize cannabis.


One cannot speak of ‘New Amsterdam’ without referring to ‘Old Amsterdam’. It is here where the enlightened people of this fascinating country have long ago accepted cannabis into their culture. The Amsterdam cannabis trade has been a huge success.

People from all over the world flock to this city to experience the cannabis culture first hand. So much so that government officials in Holland have attempted to cut back somewhat in an effort to slow down the proliferation of ‘coffee shops’.

Right now Dutch authorities, in an effort to appease unhappy nationals, have passed a law which has made it illegal for foreigners to buy cannabis unless they purchase a ‘weed pass’.

This essentially puts a noose around the famous cannabis tourism enterprise. Should this law be proven constitutional it could mean an end to the millions of tourist dollars that flow into city coffers each year.

The law is being challenged in The Hague district by a coalition of over 600 cannabis cafe’s.  The plan is to be rolled out to other Dutch cities, including the popular tourist center of Amsterdam, by next year. The ban does not extend to carrying or consuming cannabis.

The law may be found unconstitutional because it discriminates between Dutch citizens who are allowed to use cannabis and foreign tourists who are not. The attorney representing the cannabis café coalition had this to say regarding the law:

“This is a bad decision, not only for the foreigners who can be discriminated against now, but also for the image of the Netherlands in other countries. We are not a free country anymore because our government asks us to discriminate.”

Officials in Amsterdam, do not agree with their government and find the law offensive:

The court ruled that the new law is legal because of the rise in criminality linked to the Dutch drug trade. But the decision is fiercely opposed by city officials in Amsterdam, where the cannabis cafe’s are a major tourism draw and where coffee-shop owners have vowed to ignore the law once it comes into effect.

Among the slanted Dutch houses of Amsterdam’s infamous red light district, Michael Veling, 56, owner of the 420 Cafe, said he was outraged by the ruling. Veling, who is also chairman of the Dutch Union of Cannabis Retailers, said coffee shop owners in the city of Maastricht, where the law comes into effect next week, were preparing to disobey “this ridiculous law” and were “ready to be arrested”.


Not only does the German government subsidize organic foods so that everyone may eat healthy without being charged extortionate amounts of monet, they will now pay for sick people to access cannabis starting in 2017:

Health Minister Hermann Groehe said; “Our aim is that seriously ill people are treated in the best possible way.” First the very sick, then the sick and then those who don’t want to get sick will be legally allowed cannabis. The German government will grow cannabis themselves at a secure location. They will join a growing number of European countries that have a medical cannabis program.


Italians have had it a bit harder than some other countries in the EU but finally things seem to be moving in a favourable direction. An Italian research group produced a study suggesting that legalizing cannabis could boost Italy’s GDP by between 1.30 and 2.34 percent.

In January, Italy officially decriminalized a number of minor crimes, the most important of which had to do with medical cannabis cultivation and cannabis research.

In the recent past, approved growers who violated the country’s strict regulations — even in minor ways — could be imprisoned or pay a hefty fine. This no longer will happen. Any violators will now receive only a minor fine, and no prison time.

Although this new law does not change recreational status, many feel it is the first step in getting cannabis fully legalized for recreational use for all citizens.

This new law appears to have sprung from aggressive legislation efforts the in 2015, where reform of the country’s laws drew widespread support from politicians across the board.


Small amounts of cannabis have been decriminalized in Switzerland, allowing the growing and cultivating of up to four plants per person. Liberal and relaxed, there is little threat to recreational users but no plans to legalize in the near future.

South America

Let’s next examine South America where several laws have been passed in certain key countries.


Following in the footsteps of the total and complete legalization of pot in Uruguay last year, Ecuador may be next. Ecuador has emerged beaten and bloody from decades of interdiction led by the US DEA. They share a common feeling that the alleged ‘war on drugs’ was and is a failure.

Right now possession of small amounts of cannabis is legal as long as it’s for personal use and there is no intention to distribute it. The president of Ecuador has already issued large numbers of pardons to prisoners caught in the drug war. This laudable action is a first I believe, in the world.


Along with full legalization, Uruguay has also implemented a country-wide market for stabilizing the price of cannabis. Some estimates are as low as 87 cents per gram. This is another clever and generous move that no other country has tried. It takes the profiteering out of the industry.


Argentina looks like it may follow the lead of her sister countries and legalize cannabis soon. The president of the country has endorsed a plan to legalize cannabis use. Their reasoning is simple. It’s the same reason all countries and states share: to put an end to the criminal, black market syndicates that flourish as long as drugs remain illegal.

Argentina has also suffered from the DEA’s interdiction programs and sees it as a failure. Vast numbers of citizens have held protests and rallies which are resonating with the government.


Currently, Columbia allows up to 22 grams of cannabis for personal possession. This limit does not apply for medical or scientific purposes, and if licensed by the National Anti-Narcotics Council, it is “legal to grow up to 20 plants for personal consumption“.

The War on Drugs has raged for 40 years and no country has seen a worse picture than Colombia – cocaine and heroin have ravaged the country’s legal economy and cartels have grown in strength. Upon seeing the positive effects from the legalization in the United States (growth in economy and Mexican drug cartels rapidly losing money), the president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, has stated publicly that he believes the War on Drugs to be a failure and that he’s seeking new options.

Costa Rica

The ‘rich coast’ offers inexpensive Caribbean tourism, warm equatorial sunlight, stunning world-class eco-tourism, live volcanoes and amazing foods. We can now add to the list a comprehensive decriminalization of cannabis.

Costa Rica has decriminalized the use and possession of cannabis (but cultivation is prohibited). An important distinction that sets Costa Rica apart is the treatment of illegal drugs as a public health matter rather than a crime. As a result, Costa Rica’s national police force are unlikely to make an arrest for public smoking, although they could issue a fine for smoking in a common public area, such as a bus stop or restaurant.

Rest of the World


Jamaica, where about 37,066 acres of cannabis grow, is the largest Caribbean supplier of cannabis to the USA and other Caribbean islands, according to the State Department’s 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.


If any country ever needed to legalize illicit drugs, perhaps Mexico would be on the top of the list. In Northern Mexico, the wars between cartels has resulted in more deaths than the Vietnam war, all in less than a decade.

Recently, two bills were introduced in Mexico City, one for decriminalization and one allowing medical use of cannabis following a Supreme court ruling.

Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled 4-to-1 Wednesday that outlawing the possession and use of the cannabis plant represents a violation of fundamental human rights.

The Supreme Court’s Ruling leaves Mexico’s current drug laws untouched, which are among the most conservative and retaliatory in the world. However, it does pave the way toward total reform by allowing archaic laws to be removed and progressive legislation to be enacted.

Another interesting development is the predicable drop in drug cartel revenue after Colorado and other states legalized cannabis.


The Times of India has gone on record supporting the idea of cannabis decriminalization in the country. It’s already widely used in many religious ceremonies among the Hindu population, and its use is not enforced as stringently as many might suspect. Not only that, but wild cannabis grows in abundance in many states.

The Philippines

Even the new president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, signalled his support of the use of cannabis for medical purposes, possibly opening the door to significant new business opportunities in Asia. He openly opposes recreational cannabis but is in favour of constructing a medical cannabis program.


Following his landslide victory for Canada’s Liberal Party in the October 2015 elections, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed to make recreational cannabis legal for all Canadian citizens. If he keeps his word, he’ll have to pass the legislation by April 19, 2017. With its close ties to the USA and the U.K., many experts are speculating that cannabis legalization in Canada will have profound ripple effects on current cannabis laws and legalization status in those places.

Medical cannabis has been projected to become a $1 billion business in Canada by 2020. The legalization of recreational use could push the industry into a $7 billion business by some estimates. Canada’s economy has been suffering from the impact of low energy prices; cannabis tax revenues would allow Trudeau to pay for the infrastructure spending he wants and the tax cuts on the middle class he promised.

Recently, a law was passed that allows licensed producers to grow and ship cannabis to medical patients anywhere in Canada, thus allowing store-to-door purchasing.

If Mr. Trudeau’s campaign promise takes affect, Canada will have a legal cannabis market in 12 months time.

Dr. Christopher Rasmussen
Dr. Christopher Rasmussen MD,MS, an anesthesiologist with a Master’s degree in traditional Chinese medicine, is a professor, lecturer, seminar provider, and world authority on preventive medicine.For more information on preventive medicine see


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