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Which European Country Will Legalize Weed Next?

Malta took the lead, but other countries look likely to quickly follow.

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While the debate over legalizing cannabis at the federal level continues in the United States, other countries have started to join Canada in making cannabis legal nationwide. That includes the countries of the European Union, one of the largest markets in the world.

Malta made the leap at the end of 2021, after the United Nations reclassified cannabis, recognizing its therapeutic uses. Other European countries look sure to follow in 2022.

Writing for The Journal in Ireland, Dr. Garrett McGovern summed up the prevalent feeling among many in Europe toward laws prohibiting marijuana use.

"In order to make people safer, cannabis should be regulated and controlled in much the same way alcohol and tobacco are regulated; taxed appropriately and taken out of the hands of dangerous drug cartels," Dr. McGovern wrote.

He also noted that a regulated cannabis industry created jobs and addressed an issue that relatively few have mentioned. He wrote that black market cannabis operations often use children to sell cannabis illegally, placing them "into a murky, damaging world of drug running and criminality. A deplorable state of affairs."

RELATED: Is France Finally Ready to Legalize Cannabis?

Germany looks ready to legalize adult-use cannabis

Most of those tracking the situation believe that Germany could become the next European country to legalize recreational cannabis. German leaders already made medical marijuana legal in 2017.

In the last election, the coalition government put into office (consisting of the Social Democrats (SPD), Green Party, and Free Democrats (FDP) announced its intention in October 2021 to legalize adult-use marijuana. According to the New York Times, experts believe German lawmakers will pass a bill creating a legal cannabis system sometime in the next two years.

People in the industry also expect that legalization in Germany will provide a template for other countries to follow quickly. The EU will soon become the largest cannabis market globally if that happens. Germany alone has more than 83 million people. The EU has a population of 447 million. In comparison, the United States has a population of 329 million.

People in the industry also expect that legalization in Germany will provide a template for other countries to follow quickly. The EU will soon become the largest cannabis market globally if that happens. Germany alone has more than 83 million people. The EU has a population of 447 million. In comparison, the United States has a population of 329 million.

RELATED: How Germany Became the New Cannabis Capital of Europe

Italians may get the chance to vote

Across Europe, countries are addressing the issue of legal recreational cannabis in a variety of ways.

Voters in Italy may find a referendum on the ballot in 2022 to legalize adult-use marijuana. A group that supports the effort has collected and submitted more than 500,000 signatures from Italians asking for the issue on the ballot. However, it faces opposition from conservatives, so it's not a guarantee that it will happen.

Luxembourg already allows people to grow cannabis in their homes for their own personal use, a change made in 2021. The country's leaders also have said they intend to hold a vote on creating a legal adult-use cannabis market. Pilot programs creating legal cannabis markets in parts of The Netherlands and in the Swiss city of Zurich also are planned for 2022 (Switzerland, it should be noted, is not part of the EU).

While each country is taking its own approach, the overall trend is clear: legalized marijuana looks to become a reality relatively soon in many parts of Europe. It seems not a matter of if, but when. The question then will become: How long will the United States wait to do the same?

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