Cannabis in Western Europe

January 2022

Strong movements across Western European markets towards the legalisation of medical and recreational cannabis are expected to reshape the undeveloped Western European cannabis market, and accelerate the migration from the massive illicit cannabis market to the legal one.

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Key Findings

Legal cannabis growth driven by growth in medical cannabis and CBD

The cannabis market in Western Europe is forecast to grow by a 25% CAGR over 2021-2026, driven by the legalisation of medical cannabis in several European markets and the positive development of CBD in the region. Although illicit cannabis will retain a strong presence and will still represent the bulk of value sales by the end of the forecast period, the wider availability of CBD and medical cannabis products will sustain legal cannabis growth and accelerate the migration away from the illicit market.

Cannabis is still in its infancy and highly dependent on legal frameworks

Although there is partial legalisation or decriminalisation of cannabis growing in the region, this is yet to transform into real development of the industry. While many countries have legalised medical cannabis, access is restricted to certain products and medical conditions. At the same time, innovation within the CBD industry is constrained by low THC limits across countries.

Countries’ cannabis profiles vary significantly

No country in Western Europe has yet legalised recreational cannabis, but the region has some of the most developed cannabis cultures in the world, such as in the Netherlands and Spain. However, great differences persist among consumers, with older generations typically being more reluctant to allow cannabis use. Clear generational and social gaps still exist that make legalisation and development of the market a slow process, although the potential legalisation of adult-use cannabis in Germany is likely to accelerate the cannabis debate within the EU and promote the development of the industry at a regional level.


Western Europe country coverage
Key findings

Regional Overview

Western Europe lagging behind other regions
Medical cannabis to gain ground favoured by legalisation in key markets
Illicit trade on the rise, despite a more flexible approach on Cannabis
Illicit trade on rise despite more flexible approach on Cannabis (2)
Limited product offer hinders sales of medical cannabis
More diversified offer to drive sales growth for CBD

Country Snapshots

Cannabis reforms to reshape the industry in Germany
Germans remain cautious about full cannabis legalisation
Clinical trials conducted before medical cannabis legalisation
French show reluctance to accept cannabis use
Netherlands to promote a pilot project to test cannabis legalisation
Perception of cannabis has deteriorated among Dutch population
UK to pave way for the development of medical cannabis
Promising prospects supported by positive perception of cannabis
Spain on course to legalise medical cannabis
Cannabis associated with international trafficking
Decriminalisation of cannabis on the ballot in Italy
Decriminalisation debate set to increase acceptance of cannabis
Cannabis legislation remains tight in Greece
Cannabis consumption associated with casual and occasional use
Access to medical cannabis remains restricted in Portugal
Portuguese consumers spread evenly, with generational divides

Categories and Opportunities

Access to medical cannabis is still limited in the region
Resistance towards cannabis might threaten treatment expansion
CBD seen as palliative health, but perception is changing
New formats could help CBD market to grow
Illicit trade grows despite adult-use legalisation in key markets
Strong cannabis culture set to hinder shift towards legal cannabis

Legislation and Legal Frameworks in the Region

Germany and Netherlands at the forefront of legalising adult-use cannabis
Medical cannabis makes advances across countries
Acceptance of CBD grows but limitations persist
Where do consumers stand on cannabis legalisation?
Where consumers stand on cannabis legalisation? (2)
Where does the Western European political spectrum stand on cannabis?

Regional Production and Supply Chain

Regional industrial hemp production boosted by CBD boom
Southern European countries to benefit from competitive advantages

Product Presence and New Developments

Limited product offer and legislation constrain innovation in CBD
E-commerce set to fuel CBD growth in Western Europe


Current adult-use cannabis consumer types
Plotting the views and attitudes of non-users


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