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Home Grow Europe?

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Several political initiatives are moving forward in multiple countries that would give European citizens the right to grow their own – what are the opportunities and pitfalls?

Home grow is a controversial topic in the cannabis industry just about everywhere. On one hand, it is the legal loophole that began to establish the industry in places like Canada (and one presumes European countries like Luxembourg). On the other hand, it represents considerable competition to the nascent medical and recreational industry. After all, if people are growing their own, they won’t buy it.

The cost of cannabis, especially for patients who use far more of it than recreational users, is one of the biggest reasons this entire discussion remains politically relevant. This is especially true in places like Germany – where theoretically at least, sick patients should be able to get their meds covered for a co-pay of about $11 a month. Many – if not still the majority of those who should qualify – are not or just falling out of the system altogether.

However, it is clear that the debate has progressed significantly in Europe. Mention home grow even a few years ago in an industry event in Germany and one would be looked at as a dangerous “radical.”

Now the government is again considering the same as Luxembourg and Portugal move towards legalizing limited home grow, Italy has a legal precedent set by its highest court, and Germany tries to figure out how to incorporate this idea into the recreational system they are now holding hearings on. Patient home grow briefly became legal here in 2016 before the medical law was passed in 2017.

How Do Patients Fit In?

One of the most important reasons for legalizing home grow is patient need – especially at a time when most doctors are still not educated about cannabis – and the sickest patients are still struggling with access on the cost front.

However, so far in Europe at least, this is not a discussion that has gotten much traction. Indeed “home grow” has been a topic that is mostly focused on those who want to use the plant for “recreational” purposes. Growing four to five plants in an indoor grow box will not create enough cannabis for patients. It is, however, plenty for the average occasional rec user.

Beyond this, the idea of having legal non-profit patient collectives has not entered the discussion (so far). In Spain the clubs are “non-profit,” but they are not targeted to patients but rather the general cannabis-using public.

However, the reality remains that without some kind of relief, or at least recognition that patients need to not only use more cannabis to manage their conditions, but also grow more, any reform that excludes this reality will continue to put the sickest and most vulnerable people in danger of being criminalized merely for being sick.