The incoming government has announced it: recreational cannabis will be made legal in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. The significance of this is massive, since Luxembourg will be the first country in Europe which legalises the product, after countries such as Portugal, the Netherlands, or the Czech Republic either decriminalised it or just tolerate it.
In the Netherlands, coffee shops can be closed at any time, since marijuana remains a scheduled illegal narcotic that cannot be legally sold. Choosing to avoid this arbitrary legal framework is very good news, and the government should be commended for doing so.
Cannabis legalisation has been political for the parties involved. For a long time, it was a demand merely made by left-wing parties on the fringe of the political spectrum. The Green Party was advocating for it, yet toned down support after government participation became more likely. It surely wasn’t important in the 2013 coalition talks, because over the last five years, the topic did not gain enough traction to be addressed. The government did decide very late in their last term to legalise medicinal marijuana.
Overall, the government can only gain from this. The socially conservative opposition is not loud on this issue, as most Luxembourgers are aware that young people find the drug no matter if it’s legal or not.
Luxembourg has taken a soft-core approach to enforcing the law (when it comes to consumption) for years. Furthermore, the government will look modern and innovative to the rest of Europe, where perceptions on marijuana are changing as well. As the first country to legalise, Luxembourg can spearhead a move for continent-wide legal cannabis.
In the future, government-regulated shops would likely be subjected to corporation and sales tax, which can boost revenues. Additionally, ending the drug war will rid the country of most of the criminal gangs smuggling the product over the border, and funding other criminal activities with that money.
Yes, the government might have a few grumpy columns written about the move, and a handful of social conservatives will make snarky comments about those who consume weed. More importantly though, cannabis will gain social acceptance, which it needs in order to access to a mature and informed debate about risks and advantages of the product.
On the political landscape, the main opposition party, the Christian Social People’s Party (CSV), will wrangle with a concrete statement. The party isn’t known to be socially liberal, yet it has never argued for backtracking on social issues whatsoever. However, CSV MPs will probably be asked to vote on draft legislation in parliament, which will have them make a choice. This is likely to ask some political courage from some people, no matter what that vote will be.
Ironing out the specifics will now be the priority for the months and years leading to legalisation: the government should be watchful not to over-regulate or over-tax. If consumers will be burdened with 20 filled-out forms, three ID checks, and sky-high taxes each time they buy their weed, they will go back to their old dealers and we will have achieved nothing.
Legalising is one thing, doing it wisely is another.
This article was first published by the Luxembourg Times.
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