When it comes to cannabis acceptance in Europe, attitudes are changing in some countries more rapidly than others. Recent poll results show increased acceptance for adult cannabis use in Germany and Switzerland, whereas Austria is lagging behind her German-speaking companions.
A Rapid Change of Mood in Germany
A recent poll conducted by the Mafo market research institute on the behalf of Playboy Deutschland shows majority support for the legalization of cannabis in Germany for the first time.
According to the survey, 57.5 percent of the German population believe cannabis should be legal for adults to purchase and consume. In addition, 90.5 percent of the more than 1,000 interview respondents do not believe the current drug policy works to prevent people from purchasing or consuming the banned herb.
Fewer than one-third of the interview subjects surveyed had experience consuming cannabis. “Hard drugs,” such as heroin, cocaine, and meth are still far less tolerated in German society, with 92.9 percent of respondents opposed to making hard drugs legally accessible.
The average German’s opinion of cannabis prohibition is changing rapidly, much like what has been happening in the United States over the past 25 years.
The most significant shift in public acceptance has been happening between the Alps and the North Sea.
According to Emnid Institute polls from 2001 and 2010, support for cannabis legalization in Germany was at 19 percent, compared to 40 percent support in the US at the same time.
By the end of 2014, according to the Infratest-Dimap-Institute, 30 percent of Germans felt cannabis should be sold by trained staff in specialized stores to customers over the age of 18. One year later, in November 2015, support for the sale of cannabis through specialist stores grew to 42 percent.
Both surveys were commissioned by the German Hemp Association (DHV) and show a very clear trend toward acceptance, which has since been confirmed by polling data.
In July 2015, a poll conducted by the Forsa market research institute on behalf of Stern Magazine found that 37 percent of Germans supported cannabis legalization; a similar poll published in Yougov Magazine reported 39 percent support for cannabis legalization in March 2015.
Not even two years later, support for cannabis legalization in Germany has reached a majority for the first time ever. Of course, the developments in Colorado and across America’s West Coast have had a considerable influence on the change of opinion in Germany, with more and more positive media reports about the benefits of a regulated cannabis market.
The Cannabis Evolution in Switzerland
Cannabis with a THC content of less than 1 percent is already legal in Switzerland and available for purchase in retail outlets, but voters want more reform. According to the latest Swiss poll, a two-thirds majority is ready to end prohibition.
Between July and August of this year, the Swiss Institute for Market and Social Research “GFS-Zürich” — at the request of the Swiss “Fachverband Sucht” (association for addiction) — interviewed 1,200 persons aged 18 and over by telephone about their opinion on the legalization of THC-rich cannabis.
The survey found that 66 percent of the Swiss population would like to see an end to cannabis prohibition — provided that consumption for children under the age of 18 and driving under influence remain prohibited.
- 66% want to see cannabis treated like tobacco
- 64% believe cannabis should only be sold in pharmacies
- 62% believe cannabis should be sold in a retail setting by trained staff
- 57% would like to tax cannabis
- 52% would accept warning on packaging
The poll conducted by the GFS also shows that approval is most pronounced in the Italian-speaking region of Ticino, followed by the German-speaking population. The French-speaking Suisse Romande region showed the least support.
“As far as I know, the last federal poll on the ban on cannabis dates back to 2001. So we did not know how the Swiss are today on this question. The poll brings light into the dark. The clear approval is a very important signal to politicians and authorities who support efforts to regulate the cannabis market,” said Petra Baumberger, general secretary of the association for addiction.
Austria is Coming Around
Unlike in Switzerland and Germany, Austria permits legal cuttings and cannabis seeds. Residents of Austria may grow cannabis plants so long as they do not produce buds. While consumption is allowed, possession of cannabis remains illegal and the attitude toward cannabis is not as liberal in Austria as in the two neighboring countries. Austria is the only one of the three German-speaking countries in the heart of Europe without majority support for cannabis legalization among the population.
While Austria is behind Germany and Switzerland, there is still growing support.
A non-representative poll conducted by the Karmasin opinion research institute in 2012 found that almost 30 percent of Austrians desire an end to cannabis prohibition. And the latest representative poll conducted by Health Austria shows growing support. When it comes to the legalization of recreational cannabis, a total of 46% showed support for some form of decriminalization — 42% of those in support preferred a regulated market and 4% of those in support would rather see an outright cancellation of prohibition without regulations.