History of CBD and Cannabis: Austria
Since the seventies, Austrian officials have primarily valued treatment paradigms over penalizing nonviolent drug offenses. In fact, the simple tenant of harm reduction over law enforcement was formally enacted into law in 1981.
What does this mean in terms of policy? Though cannabis is technically illegal, Austrian governmental departments still recognize the scientific and medical benefits of marijuana and high THC compounds. Since 2016, possession of less than 2 grams of marijuana has been decriminalized.
Even before the decriminalization occurred, law enforcers almost invariably ignored minor infractions in many communities. In fact, ever since 2008 policy passed, it’s been effectively legal to cultivate and sell an unlimited number of plants in Austria as long as they are not in the flowering stage.
How has Austria’s lax attitude towards cannabis developed over time, especially in the face of restrictive international pressure?
Cannabis, CBD, and Austria
For over nine centuries, Austria has had a deep interest in hemp cultivation. Hemp was considered extremely useful for its fibrous qualities: it could be fashioned into fabric, composite materials, and even consumed as a nutritious food source.
Unlike many other nations, Austria never went through the process of banning hemp production in the fifties. On a global scale, the post-war era reduced the need for wartime composites and hemp was seen as “marijuana derivative” that could be abused, which caused the plant to fall out of favor for many decades.
Lack of international demand ultimately caused the hemp industry to die out in Austria, only for it to surge to popularity again in the early 2000s. Consumer interest picked up in large part due to research demonstrating the mental, physical, and emotional health benefits of hemp-derived CBD treatments.
Additionally, many research studies showing the positive medical effects marijuana could have on many diverse conditions went a long way towards softening Austria’s stance.
Now, two major political groups, the Social Democratic Party and The Greens, are both calling for complete legalization of cannabis in Austria.
Although many consider cannabis “de facto” legal, the current patchwork of laws makes it unclear what situations users will be penalized for. Ultimately, enforcers are able to decide when a crime constitutes simple possession and trafficking. For instance, the simple act of sharing a joint with a friend can be considered a trafficking felony and land the unlucky pair in prison for more than five years.
Additionally, without state-led regulation, the CBD and hemp industries could be populated by malicious vendors selling potentially unsafe products. Many experts believe the path forward should be focused on research, harm reduction, and further decriminalization.