Austria and hemp – Legal status
The status of marijuana (THC) and CBD in Austria is quite complicated, as the current regulations fall into the so-called “gray zone”. Although trade and production are theoretically strictly prohibited, possession of cannabis for personal use and cultivation of a small amount of cannabis is not prosecuted by the police. What exactly is the marijuana (THC) law in Austria?
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Is marijuana (THC) legal in Austria?
Marijuana is not officially legal in Austria. The exception is medical marijuana issued by prescription. Austria’s regulations on the use and cultivation of marijuana are included in the 1998 Narcotic Substances Act, which was enacted after the country joined the EU. Since 2016, there have been some changes in the law, and the use of cannabis is no longer considered a crime. Despite this, the law clearly states that possession of any drugs in Austria can be punishable by a fine or even imprisonment, depending on the amount of illegal substance a person carries.
Also, the sale and cultivation of marijuana in Austria is considered a crime. If someone is caught dealing in large quantities of banned substances, they are subject to the following punishment:
- imprisonment of two to three years (depending on the type of drug);
- five years’ imprisonment for import;
- from one year up to 20 years’ imprisonment in the case of criminal activity involving drug trafficking and membership in a criminal group (gang).
These regulations apply to trafficking in large quantities, which in the case of marijuana means an amount of more than 20 grams.
Is it allowed to use CBD oils in Austria?
For many years, CBD in Austria was a widely available and legal product. Yet in 2018, the Austrian government introduced regulations applicable to novel foods, under which food and cosmetic products containing CBD were banned. This seems like a very drastic move, yet in practice, Austrian citizens can still buy hemp products with CBD if these products contain less than 0.3% of THC. The main change is that manufacturers and sellers cannot label their products as medicines or dietary supplements, but only as flavoured goods or raw material. This means that it is currently illegal to sell and use CBD foods or capsules in Austria. Nevertheless, it is still possible to buy CBD oil, if it is properly labelled, of course. The Austrian government explained its decision to tighten regulations on CBD by saying that there is no effective quality control of cannabidiol products, and as a result, those who use them do not know to what extent they are safe to use.
Use of medical marijuana in Austria
Medical marijuana is legal in Austria to a certain extent, although this only applies to creams, ointments or oils. A doctor can’t prescribe dried hemp. Moreover, both doctors and insurance companies are quite sceptical about cannabis treatment. For this reason, specialists rarely prescribe them, and insurers are reluctant to cover the costs of purchase of such products.
What are the penalties for possession of THC in Austria?
Possession of even 20 grams of THC in Austria can be punishable by a fine or imprisonment of up to six months. Carrying quantities exceeding 40 grams can result in a 1-year prison sentence. Of course, there are also various alternatives, such as a suspended sentence or referral for treatment. Such options were enacted in 2015 and are used most often in the case of marijuana. Typically, when someone is caught possessing or consuming marijuana in Austria, they are referred to health authorities by the police. If, during the apprehension there are aggravating circumstances, i.e., the offender has larger quantities of the drug and it is suspected that they were intended for trafficking, the sentence can be extended to 3 years in prison.
The legal status of marijuana and CBD in Austria falls into the so-called “grey zone”. Although both the cultivation and trafficking of hemp products are mostly illegal, those using them for personal use are virtually not prosecuted.