Marijuana remains illegal in most European countries (with a notable exception of the Netherlands). While Europe is perceived as “soft on drugs,” only some EU countries pursue the policy of decriminalization of marijuana. This fact, however, does not stop Europeans from using cannabis anyway.
Specifically, The European Drug Report 2016 showed that, on the average, 24.8 percent of all Europeans aged from 15 to 64 have used marijuana at least once in their life. Moreover, according to the report, the leading pot-smoking European countries are France, Denmark, and Italy. This can come as a quite surprising fact, because of these three countries, only Denmark has decriminalized cannabis—recreational marijuana use remains illegal in France and Italy. (Although, all three countries are more or less tolerant of medical cannabis use.)
This is the 21st analysis of Europe’s drug situation. The report was published on May 31, 2016, by the EMCDDA (European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction), which is located in Lisbon, Portugal.
According to the report, cannabis is the most popular illicit drug in Europe, and the levels of its consumption have a tendency towards growth. Overall, cannabis accounts for 38 percent of the European drugs market and has its largest share. Currently, marijuana and hashish are the two main products on the market.
The report also provides us with the list of the top-15 countries, whose nationals use largest quantities of marijuana and marijuana products. It may seem surprising, but the share of Dutchmen aged from 15 to 64, who have tried cannabis at least once is only 24.1 percent. Despite recreational cannabis being essentially legal in the Netherlands, the country only occupies the eighth place on the list.
This is how the complete list of top-15 pot-smoking European countries looks like:
The statistics of the EMCDDA are rather impressive. However, we have to keep in mind that the data is based on rather old surveys and reports. Moreover, the surveys taken by the agency were conducted in different countries in the different ways. And, of course, since cannabis is not legal in the most of these countries, it can be a great challenge to get the results that can be relied on with confidence.
There is also the strange decision by the authors of the report to exclude the data for people over 64 years of age. As most Americans know very well, that there are many seniors in the marijuana decriminalization states, who enjoy cannabis for recreational purposes or use it as a medication.
Overall, we can conclude that a strict anti-drug policy of a country does not influence the real situation that much. And France can be a perfect example here. This country has a repressive policy towards drugs but is still at the top of the list. The truth is that the number of people who use cannabis depends on the average age of the population, the level of urbanization, cultural and regional traditions and, of course, international trends. However, the policy towards drugs influences the way they are produced. While the top marijuana companies in the Netherlands or the United States are enjoying the liberty to build a legitimate business and supply patients with the high-quality products, the countries, where the cannabis industry is illegal, witness the growth in crime and violence, increased prices and corruption, contamination of the product, and unsafe conditions during cultivation and production.
The research is of a very high importance because it shows the complexity of the issues connected with drugs and may contribute to drug policy development. It is also worth mentioning that currently the countries of the European Union debate the costs and benefits of various cannabis policy options on the political and public level, and this report shows what should not be missed.