Sam Tanson pointed out that repressive drug policies have been ineffective and largely failed to achieve the expected results.

On Saturday, our colleagues from RTL Radio hosted a roundtable discussion with Minister of Justice Sam Tanson, the director of the National Centre for Addiction Prevention (CNAPA), Elena Bienfait, and the administrative director of Impuls, which offers help to young drug users, Céline Danhyer.

Cannabis regulation rather than legalisation

Minister of Justice Sam Tanson once again defended the government's decision to regulate recreational cannabis consumption, pointing out that this was already included in the governing coalition's programme before the last national elections in 2018.

The initial plan of the coalition between the Democratic Party (DP), the Luxembourg Socialist Workers' Party (LSAP), and the Green Party (déi Gréng) was to legalise cannabis.

However, Tanson explained that because the government does not want to allow cannabis consumption in public spaces, they now prefer to talk about "regulation" rather than "legalisation." In addition, cannabis will be "decriminalised," as residents will be permitted to carry up to 3 grammes of marijuana.

Despite the fact that the new bill allows for the cultivation of up to four cannabis plants, several restrictions will remain. For instance, plants must be planted in a way that conceals them from view, according to the draft bill.

Tanson stressed that the long-term goal of the government remains the creation of state-approved selling points for cannabis. However, the Minister added that the main priority is to move on from the repressive drug policies of the past, which have been ineffective.

Which is worse: alcohol or cannabis?

CNAPA Director Elena Bienfait argued that we should discuss cannabis in a more objective and less taboo-laden manner. She pointed out that, while the widely held view that cannabis is a "gateway drug" has been debunked in academic studies since the 1990s, it persists "as an error in reasoning."

Bienfait also stated that statistics suggest that alcohol usage is substantially higher than cannabis consumption, particularly among young people.

When does consumption become problematic? According to the CNAPA director, it is not so much about how much a person consumes, but rather why they consume: What are the thoughts related with consumption? And how does this affect a person's life?

In recent months, CNAPA has stepped up its educational efforts to address the "many questions" that remain. The centre has a "cannabis hotline" (49 77 77 – 55) and the project Cannabis Koffer on Tour ("cannabis suitcase on tour"), which will see CNAPA workers travel across the Grand Duchy's municipalities in 2023 to inform residents about cannabis.

Regulation to move away from stereotypes

The third guest on Saturday was the administrative director of Impuls, Céline Danhyer. She explained that when the new bill was first announced, Impuls had to clarify to a lot of young people that the planned regulation will not apply to minors usage remains a health concern.

Danhyer stressed that we must be very careful regarding the type of messages that we convey to others. She pointed out that, for instance, alcohol consumption is often downplayed and trivialised.

Minister of Justice Sam Tanson agreed that the possible health dangers and repercussions of any substance, legal or illegal, must always be highlighted.

However, Tanson pointed out that by growing their own cannabis plants, people will be able to better monitor their own intake, for example, by being aware of the plant's THC level. All guests also agreed that adult consumption must be discussed more.

According to the most recent drug survey, cannabis consumption is slightly on the rise and has even doubled among people aged 35 to 64. For this reason, the general public must be informed "as much as possible," according to Elena Bienfait.