Cannabis – The Situation in Austria

A short overview:oehv-logo_v1

Legal situation:

  • Hemp production is allowed for industrial and medical purposes. Hemp products can be purchased legally, except for psychoactive cannabis containing THC.
  • Consumption of cannabis is technically non-punishable, but possession, purchases and passing it on to others – even when only sharing a joint – are illegal. Austrian law makes a clear distinction between consumption related offenses and criminal dealing.
  • Possession cases are mostly diverted. An offender can opt for a rehab program that waives any court proceedings.
  • From 24,000 recorded drug offenses in 2012 – a decline of almost 10% compared to 2011 – 19,000 involved only consumption cases of cannabis and 505 persons were indicted for cannabis dealing.

Medical Use:

  • While production of Cannabis for medical uses is theoretically allowed, the sale of the natural remedy itself is prohibited under Austrian drug laws. 
  • Austria allows the sale of synthetical Cannabis pharmaceuticals such as Dronabinol (containing THC) and Sativex (containing Cannabidiol CBD) with a prescription from a licensed physician.
  • While it illegal to grow cannabis with the intent to produce the psychoactive cannabinoid THC, Austrians can purchase cannabis seeds and seedlings legally. According to law, only THC is prohibited, but none of the other hundreds of Cannabinoids.
  • It is unclear whether this would allow cannabis patients to grow plants as long as they would harvest them before the flowering phase. This is important as research shows that the leaves of the immature plants contain Cannabidiol that can be extracted into cannabis juice.

Resource/Industrial Uses:

  • Production of industrial hemp for the production of fibers, hempseed oil and all other non-psychoactive parts of the hemp plant was allowed in 1995 after a forced hiatus since 1958.
  • Industrial hemp must not contain more than 0.3% THC after flowering.
  • One region in Northern Austria, Hanfthal (Hemp Valley) has revived an 800 years old tradition of hemp production.
  • Domestic fiber hemp production supplies Austrian hemp building materials producers with the commodity and hemp seed oil producing plants are grown too. Hemp food items like hemp seed oil etc. are produced and sold in Austria.
  • Austria is home to 2 hemp insulation mats producers which are an environmentally friendy alternative to conventional methods like styrofoam or mineral wool insulation products. Growing production has resulted in dramatic cost improvements that make hemp products price competitive while delivering significantly better thermal and acoustic proofing.

Prevalence:

  • According to official government data, more than 20% or 1 million Austrians have used cannabis in their lifetime and 12.5% are estimated to smoke it regularly/occasionally.
  • Of these, roughly one half consumes cannabis regularly (defined as more than 2 smokes/vapes/edibles per week) and the other half occasionally.
  • Cannabis smoking is especialy prevalent in young users. Government data estimate that 40% of youth between 15 and 25 years consume cannabis. Official data says that cannabis consumption starts among adolescents at 15 years of age on average.

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