Unlike neighboring Germany, Austria’s weed laws are relatively strict. Although legal recreational weed may still be a while away, Austria has had a medical marijuana program for years now. Where it gets confusing though, are the definitions. Smoking weed in Austria is still not legal, although it’s also no longer a criminal offense provided that it’s for personal use. But don’t go lighting up a joint just yet, as you need to understand the very confusing ins and outs of it all. To help us explain, we’ve interviewed a local Austrian for their perspective and opinion.
Disclaimer: We cannot guarantee the accuracy of this article at the time of reading. We take no responsibility for any inaccurate information.
Austria’s Weed Laws
So back in 2008, the cannabis laws of Austria underwent a major change. Cannabis for medical and scientific use was legalized, provided the THC content is no greater than 0.3%. A second change in 2016 saw the partial decriminalization of possession and cultivation of cannabis for personal health reasons. A criminal conviction is still possible, but less likely provided the person is willing to comply with the health authorities. The personal possession limit has also been set at 20 grams, which could lead to a maximum of 6 months in prison. Amounts greater than this can likely incur longer sentences, and won’t have the option for health authorities to oversee the matter, rather than the police. The sale and distribution remains a serious offense.
Medical Marijuana In Austria
Austria does have legal weed in the form of marijuana-derived products. The government is yet to have a system in place that distributes dried cannabis flower to patients, however, patients can legally import a select number of products. Dronabinol and Sativex are permitted, similar to a lot of other European countries. The lack of choice and availability of cannabis has been a hot topic amongst the Austrian government of late. While the countries leaders continue their debates, the citizens of Austria appear to be far more unified on the matter. At least when it comes to medical marijuana anyway.
Austria Supports Legal Medical Weed
From a 2017 poll, 78% of respondents support the idea of people having access to medical cannabis through pharmacies. When asked about legal recreational weed, only 29% of Austria appears in support (although the question posed was phrased differently). This is a pretty significant drop, which is mirrored when asked about personal cultivation or prescription free purchasing.
|Strongly Agree||Somewhat Agree||Somewhat Disagree||Disagree||Unsure|
|Medical cannabis should only be available by prescription in pharmacies||59%||19%||9%||9%||4%|
|Cannabis should generally be available to everyone aged 21 and over||15%||14%||15%||49%||7%|
|Everyone should have the right to grow cannabis for medical purposes||15%||11%||20%||48%||5%|
|Medicinal cannabis should be available without a prescription from drug stores or hemp shops||11%||10%||19%||54%||5%|
An Interview With A Local Austrian
Q: Could you tell me a little about yourself?
A: My name is Andy, I am 25 years old and I am an engineer working as a project manager for highway construction sites. I live in Graz, the second biggest city in Austria. Graz has a population of about 440,000 people with a big amount of students from all over south Austria.
Q: How long have you lived in Austria for?
A: I was born in Austria but I lived the first 21 years of my life in a small town (20,000 people) at the foot of the alps.
Q: What is the general attitude towards cannabis in Austria? Are people slowly changing their minds? Is it typically only acceptable amongst younger generations?
A: Cannabis consumption in urban areas is widely accepted. You can smell it at night in pretty much every park and club parking lot. But also in the alpine regions, nobody really cares when you smoke a joint. With the younger generation, it is all over the country and widely spread. Almost as wide as alcohol.
Yes, there is a change. It’s becoming a less taboo topic. In my opinion, this is because cannabis consumption is more often shown in media in the last few years since Colorado legalized and the argument appeared about how much tax-income a country can generate by legalizing cannabis. Also, the argument that alcohol is much more harmful to your body, and your mind is often heard (alcoholism is quite common in Austria).
Q: Are there certain areas of the country that are more pro-legalization? Are the larger cities typically more liberal with their views like America?
A: Yes the people in the cities are way more pro legalization.
Q: Can you see Austria legalizing recreational cannabis within the next 5 years? If yes, do you think it would be a fairly smooth implementation without a lot of backlash? If no, do you think it will happen within the next 10 years?
A: Sadly I think the chances are very low that recreational use will be legalized in the next ten years. We have a conservative right-wing party coalition with the green party in our parliament. But the green party is very silent as a partner because the chancellor Sebastian Kurz is not afraid to quit the coalition for reelection as he did with the far-right party before. Kurz is very popular in Austria and he is handling the coronavirus situation pretty well, so I think he is definitely in for a second and maybe a third term in office. Maybe the decriminalization will go on as it did in the last decade as the police and courts slowly stopped caring about cannabis consumers because they do not have the resources to work out every case of possession for self-use.
Weed In Germany