Jul 5, 2016 9:25 AM

Buying Cannabis in Europe: Best Options

Today, cannabis is a big deal not only in the U.S. but in the whole Europe as well. However, the models of distribution in these two parts of the world differ greatly.

Of course, there are some parallels between the two models, but they still function differently. For example, we all know that medical dispensaries provide patients with cannabis. Spain, in its turn, does not have dispensaries but instead has established Cannabis Social Clubs that deal with the cultivation and distribution of marijuana on a national scale. While the U.S. has adult-use stores in the states where recreational cannabis has been legalized, the European counterparts are coffeeshops located in the Netherlands.


The main place to get weed in Europe have always been and still are coffeeshops. Since 1976, the policy of the Netherlands has been tolerant to soft drugs. To regulate the use, a strict division between soft and hard drugs took place thus preventing the “heroin problem” of the 1970's from further development.

Today, local coffeeshops have a license to sell marijuana. However, there are still many regulations that limit the overindulgence of coffeeshops. According to the laws, the shops can sell weed following the next regulations:

  • one customer can buy no more than 5 grams of herbs;
  • a store can contain a maximum of 500 grams of cannabis;
  • hard drugs are strictly forbidden;
  • people under 18 are not allowed in the shop;
  • no disturbance of the public order;
  • location within 250 meters from a school is forbidden;
  • coffeeshops cannot advertise.

The location rule greatly limits the number of coffeeshops in Amsterdam. However, there are still plenty of them—about 160 coffeeshops function in the city. Due to the lack of competition, the products may be overpriced, but you can still find some quality strains for a reasonable price.

The biggest surprise of the Dutch policy is “the backdoor paradox.” While coffeeshops have licenses to sell marijuana, their suppliers work illegally. Though this scheme is a strange one, it has been functioning for the last 40 years.

Cannabis Social Clubs

Relatively liberal Spanish drug laws allowed the foundation of the first Cannabis Social Clubs. Members of these clubs grow cannabis that is then distributed through a predetermined system. The key to the clubs' successful existence is the private nature of these entities.

Soon enough, Belgium followed the example of Spain and established two Cannabis Clubs of its own. Since the re-legalization of cannabis in Uruguay, the number of Cannabis Social Clubs has risen as well. Unlike Spain, where many clubs were commercialized due to a large number of members, Uruguay allows only 49 people in a club for it to stay private and small.

The worst outcome happened to the members of a Spanish club that consisted of more than 300 people thus qualifying as a commercial organization. Two members of the club were sentenced to six months in prison. The president and the prominent leader of the same club now have to spend one year and eight months in prison and pay a fine of €250,000.

Some Spanish clubs that served tourists as short-time members were also shut down by the police. Today, there are some major rules that the clubs have to follow:

  • transparency at all levels;
  • no private profits—everything must be invested into the club;
  • supply follows demand;
  • alongside the transparency, the clubs must cooperate with the authorities;
  • growing of cannabis must be done in accordance with the organic farming standards.

In general, both models have their own disadvantages. Coffeeshops are now in danger because of major inconsistencies in law. Many modern Cannabis Social Clubs start acting like commercial entities instead of being the initial collective cultivation clubs. The best option for Europe is to operate on both models but further improve them.

Why Is Marijuana Still Illegal in Europe?
While more and more U.S. states consider cannabis legalization, Europe hardly moves anywhere in this direction. One of the reasons for this inactivity is the fact that the political power of people in Europe is limited, and they cannot simply address the question most politicians try to avoid.
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