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The Rise Of “Localized” Recreational Cannabis Markets In Europe


Amsterdam is again raising the idea of a tourist-free cannabis industry, and Luxembourg plans the same. Will this drive reform across Europe or will COVID-19 reset the conversation?

The Dutch may have reinvigorated the cannabis discussion during the dark days of the 1980s and 1990s, and given the world the “coffee shop,” but so far in the 21st century, the Netherlands has been the centre of multiple failed attempts to “better regulate” itself, let alone give pointers to anyone else. The question is, however, how much will the Dutch “experiment” influence others across Europe? 

The latest attempt has been a cultivation tender which has been marred by missteps and delay, unprofessionalism and just like the German medical tender before it, scrapped to be revamped to another day.

This was followed by another call by Amsterdam (which sat out the national cultivation bid discussion like other larger Dutch cities) to regulate tourists right out of town. As strange as it seems during a global Pandemic that has decimated the tourist industry globally, the city of Amsterdam at least from the position of its civic leaders, is saying, “don’t come back.”

How successful this will be is another story. But will this idea become a “norm” as Luxembourg also begins to plan its own recreational experiment with similar rules, now slated theoretically for next year?

Nimbyism vs Tourism

Europe, as it begins to slide into the early days of smaller regulated markets, is about to hit the same snags as many U.S. states, in particular. Recreational cannabis is still not a winning political issue at the polls, even as medical cannabinoids have begun to become more accepted – and even if this too is still early days.

For that reason, the entire conversation is going to hit snags that have not been dealt with before. It is different when a federal government issues such rules vs. a state and so far there is little indication in Europe at least, that these are on course to be avoided.

That said, there is another discussion in town that may well wreck the best-laid plans of governments everywhere to keep sidestepping the conversation. And that is that economic development of every kind, including from the canna trade, is going to enter a different dimension post-Covid. 

Even if the tourists are not encouraged, in cookie-cutter NIMBY protests across regions, it will be tough to keep them entirely out. See the Spanish canna clubs as perhaps the best example of the same. Not to mention the rip-roaring potential of the human rights access court case that has the potential to completely rewrite the rules if the Court of Human Rights in Strasburg rules the way it should.

Be sure to book your tickets to the International Cannabis Business Conference when it returns to Europe in the summer of 2021!