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Where Is Cannabis Reform In Sweden?

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The mix of cannabis reform and Europe’s Nordic social democracies is a strange one.

Philosophies about things like prison sentences and social systems, let alone education and healthcare, are decidedly more liberal if not “left” than almost any other place in the world in Scandinavia. The region consists of three countries – Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

However, when such philosophies are mixed with cannabis reform, so far the results are decidedly mixed.

Cannabis Reform In Scandinavia So Far

In Denmark, cannabis reform began happening on the medical side as of 2018. There is also a “recreational” experiment on the drawing board, proposed at the site of the old hippie commune called Christiana in Copenhagen which was allowed to operate by the authorities since the 1970s and only recently closed down because of gang violence.

According to NORML Norway, the land of the Vikings is actually somewhere in between this stance and Sweden`s. Medical marijuana is technically legal in the country, but possession for less than 15 grams is still a fineable offense, and most doctors do not know much about the drug or prescribe it.

Sweden however, has one of the most punitive zero-tolerance policies in Europe. That goes for not only “medical” cannabis but also commercial uses of hemp (including CBD).

That, however, has begun to change – and in some interesting ways. Starting with the fact that the government literally owns stocks in two of the largest global (and Canadian) cannabis companies in the world (Aurora and Canopy Growth).

A New Era Is Dawning

The use, possession and distribution of cannabis are criminal offenses in Sweden and can carry, depending on the crime, up to 18 years in prison. Generally however, cannabis is not considered a dangerous drug, and minor possession is usually settled out of court.

As of 2017, the time when the medical law began to change in Germany and as the laws began to change in Denmark, 91% of all drug crimes in Sweden were for use and simple possession. Cannabis is by far, the most used illicit drug. Current statistics put adult-use at approximately 10% of the population.

Technically, cannabinoids as medicine are legal and available in the country. The Swedish Medical Products Agency approved British made Sativex as a treatment for MS in 2012. Furthermore, the SMPA can also authorize special use for patients on a case-by-case basis if a doctor is willing to recommend it. So basically Germany before 2017.

CBD is also strictly regulated in the country. Indeed, last year, Sweden’s Supreme Court found that ANY CBD products that contain any traces of THC are narcotics, and further, that all CBD products themselves must adhere to European novel food standards.

A recent poll in the country found that 66% of respondents believed that wider medical use should become available. It is likely that this legislative fix will be implemented in the next few years as more and more reform comes to Europe.

However, for all its progressiveness on many “green” issues, cannabis reform is far from the top of the agenda in Sweden.

Continue to follow the International Cannabis Business Conference for updates on European cannabis policy and of course, stay tuned on when the next conference will return to Europe.