Cannabis and Driving in Europe – Laws per Country

Dutch law is merciless where anything related to driving is concerned. It punishes cannabis users and in the rest of Europe, the laws are even stricter. This article, written in conjunction with the Cannabis News Network, explores the effects this is having and why we need solutions now.

The wave of legalisation is advancing. However, for many cannabis users it is still unclear if and how much cannabis is permitted when driving. The Cannabis News Network listened to what was said at the third international symposium on the topic of “Driving under the influence of drugs”.

Unless stated otherwise, all information obtained in this article comes from the Cannabis News Network’s videos.

The current situation is that the authorities will require a blood test if there is suspicion of cannabis consumption, in order to check whether the national THC limit has been exceeded. This is similar to alcohol, but that is where the problem starts.

Why the current legislation is nonsense

Cannabis works differently from alcohol and should therefore be tested in a different way. THC can be detected in the blood up to 30 days after consumption, but, of course, that does not mean that you should not drive during that entire time. Regular users and people who need cannabis for medicinal reasons will always be over the limit if they are checked by police. The saliva tests used by the police are not very accurate either.

Jan Ramaekers, Professor at the University of Maastricht, points out another related problem. Patients being treated for pain drive better (literally) if they have taken their medicine or cannabis. In addition, there are growing indications that if you use cannabis regularly, it does not affect your ability to drive.

What happens if you are caught driving with cannabis in Europe?

The police test drivers not only for alcohol, but also for other substances such as amphetamines, cocaine and cannabis. Anyone who exceeds a given limit will face a penalty. They face (heavy) fines and the loss of their driving licence. If you have an accident, you also run the risk of your insurer refusing to cover you.

  • Driving whilst under the influence of cannabis is punished in Germany with a €500 fine and you lose your driving licence for three months. The THC limit is 1 ng/ml in blood serum, which is equivalent to 0.5 ng/ml in total blood.
  • In Belgium, the fine is between €1600 and €16,000! On top of that, offenders will lose their driving licence for at least one month. To make matters worse, the judge may also decide to ban you from driving for up to five years. The THC limit is 1 ng/ml.
  • In Great Britain, cannabis users face losing their driving licence for a year, as well as a fine of up to £ 5000. The THC limit is 2 ng/ml.
  • France has a zero tolerance policy. The fine can reach €4500, and you can lose your driving licence for up to three years.
  • In Spain, a positive saliva test costs €1000. In addition, six out of twelve points will be deducted from your driving licence. If someone is still clearly under the influence of the drug at the time of the test, it may even result in a jail sentence. Warning: A zero tolerance policy applies!
  • In Italy, the approach is similar. The punishment for driving whilst under the influence of cannabis ranges from a fine of between €1500 and €6000 plus up to a year in jail. There isn’t a THC limit here either, but a zero tolerance policy applies!
  • If you drive in the Netherlands whilst under the influence of drugs, you can expect to receive a €850 fine and lose your driving licence for several months. The THC limit is 3 ng/ml or 1 ng/ml when used in combination with alcohol or other drugs.

This is how to pass the saliva test

If there is any suspicion of drug use, the police is entitled to carry out an on-the-spot saliva test. If the test comes back positive, a blood test is generally required, and that is what counts for any punishment. Drug checks are unpleasant, but they do not have to be the end of the world.

There are some proven tips that cannabis users need to know when they are stopped at a traffic checkpoint:

  • First and foremost: Designated drivers should be sober
  • A friendly attitude goes a long way, keeping calm and remaining polite is key
  • Smoking paraphernalia (pipes, rolling papers, grinders, baggies, etc.) can give cannabis users away and should not be lying around in the car
  • THC is fat-soluble, therefore it makes sense to eat something greasy or rinse the mouth with olive oil before getting into the car
  • Looking after one’s teeth and gums is just as important. A good oral hygiene routine involves regular brushing, flossing and rinsing the mouth with mouthwash
  • Personal details have to be provided to the police, anything beyond that is voluntary and is best avoided

Drivers who follow these tips, minimise the risk of a positive saliva test.

Follow the Cannabis News Network and stay up to date on all cannabis-related news. If you would like to read more, follow the Cannabis News Network on FacebookTwitter and Vimeo.

  • Disclaimer:
    While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this article, it is not intended to provide legal advice, as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

Comments

38 thoughts on “Cannabis and Driving in Europe – Laws per Country”

  1. People who drink alcohol, drink poison. Poison that causes black outs, blurred vision, unconsciousness, and ultimately death. Cannabis, is not a poison. Cannabis is a natural medicine.

    What I do not understand, is why cannabis is so hated? Alcohol is by far the most dangerous drug out there. Alcohol gives the person a false sense of security. I don’t understand a world that allows the legalization of alcohol yet make cannabis a Schedule 1 drug.

    All medications that may impair a persons ability to drive or operate other machinery have warning labels on them. Alcohol has no such warning label.
    Ultimately it is up to the individual to make the correct decision.

    If you are going to take away the driving permits of people that take Medicinal Cannabis, then you also need to take away the permits of people that ingest alcohol as well.
    It is well documented as to how many lives are lost each year to Alcohol. It is also well documented as to how many deaths have been caused by cannabis. I implore everyone reading this to do the research necessary to show them the facts of the previous sentences.
    That way you can see for yourself, just how dangerous Alcohol is and just how benign Cannabis is as a medicine.

    I am a disabled person fighting for the rights of people who are sick, disabled, poor.

    1. Just follow the money, it is self evident who profits from this legislation, like politicians with their snouts in the trough, they would hate to lose their revenue stream

  2. Peter Jensen

    Hall of shame:

    Denmark a long term EC member country. The very first country in the world that made porn legal. Well that’s long time ago and today the liberation and freedom of people has declined in almost every aspect of the society. This includes (of course) the ban and hunt for cannabis users.

    Some hard facts about Denmark, marihuana and driving:

    0 tolerance meaning that absolutely NO amount must be traced in the blood when checked with a so called handheld narkometer. Blood sample taken is subject to zero tolerance as well. Smallest amount traceable is 0,001 milligram per kilo blood which will mark you as a narcotic influenced driver.

    The penalties are (first time caught):

    Driver license invalidated for 3 years. Cannot obtain driver license of any kind the following 3 years.

    4 % of yearly brutto income deducted as a fine.

    Second and third time caught involves weeks of jail and confiscation of the car.

    No matter how much or how little consumed of/and/or/only marihuana, cocain, opium, lsd etc. If 0,001 mg is spotted penalty is mandatory and standard no matter what type of drug detected and the amount present.

    The population in Denmark was 5,6 million in the year 2013. According to public statistics 143.000 people are labeled as alcoholics meaning roughly 2,6 %.

    For the year 2014 nearly 6000 people lost their drivers license with no relation to alcohol.

    For wearing a hemp made t-shirt, for sitting in a room/concert where other smoked a few days before the test, for smoking a joint friday and checked Thursday….

  3. In Serbia the law says minimum 3 years in jail for basically possession of cannabis, smoking in public or similar. I wouldn’t consider that green in any map. Thanks!

  4. legally available in Croatia for medical purposes 15.10.2015.

    Medicines that contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can be prescribed in Croatia to patients suffering from chronic health problems such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and AIDS. Regulations limit the quantity to 7.5 grams per month, and patients can receive a prescription of up to 30 days. It remains illegal to grow marijuana at home.

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hello Mnemo,

      Thank you for your comment and the information 🙂 I have passed the link on to the author of this article. We hope you are enjoying the blog!

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

  5. Brian O Mahoney

    hi great article guys, i am just wondering what organisations within Europe or mep’s are putting up the fight against medical cannabis when its results seem to be working?And what do they have to loose if it does get fully legalized. If someone could get back to me that would be great. Thanks

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi Brian,

      Thanks for your comment, that’s a really good question! I’m going to have to do some research to get to the answer, it may even lead to a blog article depending on how much information I am able to get. I will certainly get back to you once I know more.

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

  6. Pedro Andrade

    Amazing article guys!

    I’m wondering in which countries would be legal for me to setup a shop and sell marijuana for medicinal purposes in some countries. Thanks!

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hello Rimvydas,

      Thank you for your comment, I will check the link you have kindly provided and contact the author of this article if need be.

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

    2. Hi there, thanks for commenting… Lithuania got the green label on the first map as Sativex was apparently approved for prescription in the country. However, on rereading the source material, it is unclear as to whether GW Pharmaceticals has achieved approval in Lithuania. We will check into it more thoroughly and issue an update. Thanks again.

  7. This gives me hope. I live in Norway and have MS. My Neurologist prescribed Sativex and it seemed to work great for a while, but…… I got sick as a dog. I also have Ulceros Colitis an it made my gut go completely wild. Ended up in hospital with i.v. to get some Electrocytes and moisture back in my body. I have tried two more times after that, with the same result. So I’ve found out that if I’m ever to walk again (like I did in the begning using Sativex) I need the real thing. Perhaps then I can play with my grandchildren and go for walks with my husband. I will try to make my Neurologist order from the Netherlands, but I’m nor very hopeful. Thank you so much for your informative article.

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hello 2chance,

      You’re really welcome! 🙂 Thank you for your comment and for sharing your experiences with us. I do hope that you and your neurologist are successful! This article, written with caregivers in mind, may be useful to you.

      Good luck with everything,

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

    2. Dear 2Chance,
      Sorry to hear about your experience. It has been reported canna may be beneficiary also for Crohns and the like. Perhaps Sativex uses strains not suited for You, or, perhaps the ethanol (??although in diminutive amounts) messes things up for You.
      The real thing seems to be your best bet, but keep in mind, You must do your research on strains, to find the one best suited for your needs. Obviously characteristics such as “couch lock” and “dry mouth” are to be ruled out.
      Would be really interesting to follow up on how it will work out for You.
      Kind regards,
      T

  8. Anonymous Swede

    It’s very misleading to state that Sweden has set a precedent to allow medical users to grow.

    The legal reason for the verdict was that there was no other legal way to obtain Marijuana if you truly needed it and no other known medicine could help you.

    The response was to make Bedrocan sort of available (so far no more than 2 patients have received it). This in effect nullify this precedent.

  9. Eja Kapeller

    Hey guys! What is the source of the maps? I a journalist and would like to do a similar overview on the availability of cannabis based medicine in Europe! Please give me a quick reply asap.

    Regards,
    Eja

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi Eja,

      Thanks for your comment. Our graphic design department made the maps specifically for this article. If you are interested in using them, please email me at scarlet@sensiseeds.com and I will pass your request on to the relevant department.

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

  10. Maria Álvares

    Portugal clearly NOT green. The medical marijuana availability is almost ZERO and physicians who prescribe it face criminal charges. Sativex and other marijuana based although not illegal are little available and almost never prescribed. Portugal is currently being used by foreign enterprises (UK GW and Canadian companies) for the production of marijuana to export but medical marijuana in any form is far from being available to Portuguese patients. Although decriminalized since 2001, personal use is still penalized. In 2015 there were 10,300 cases of drug misconduct, 85% linked to the possession of ‘cannabis’, the highest figure since 2001 and an increase of 15% over the previous year.

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi Maria,

      Thanks for your comment. Please re-read the explanation as to why the countries are coloured red or green (just under the map). As you say, “Sativex and other marijuana based although not illegal are little available and almost never prescribed”, therefore they are still covered by the explanation, especially these paragraphs:

      “All countries that have passed medicinal cannabis laws, that have approved whole-plant cannabis or cannabis-based drugs, or that make cannabis/cannabis-based drugs available in some form are marked green. …
      Some countries that have passed laws supposedly allowing for the provision of medicinal cannabis do not actually permit anyone to use it; other countries do prescribe certain cannabis derivatives or synthetic cannabinoids, but do not allow whole-plant cannabis, while others have relatively relaxed laws that allow for personal medicinal cultivation, cannabis social clubs that supply medicinal users, and a range of different prescription medications.”

      Hence, Portugual is green. I hope this clarifies the reasoning 🙂

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

  11. Kim Ballard

    Well for me all good things come to an end, I’m a 68+ year old man who started smoking hash at 15 Years old, I started drug driving at 18 I’ve smoked herb or hash nearly every day until the drug test was introduced, not now need to keep my licence.
    I’m still not sure how long I have to wait from my last vape to test negative if stopped, believe it or not I have never had an accident my fault or otherwise in 50 Years of driving under the drug influence in the UK, France, Spain and Morocco.
    I truly believe I’m far more aware under the influence but we are not all the same and so approve of the testing, it’s just the test level and time after last smoke or vape to test negative if stopped and tested, and for all like me now a medicinal user for fibromyalgia I guess what’s needed is an accurate home test kit.
    Another point is there will be more uninsured banned drug drivers on the road on top of the banned drunk drivers so that problem has doubled.

  12. Mario Rossi

    Cannabis laws in Italy are very, very different from what you describe.
    It is true, patiens have “access” to medical cannabis, but that amounts to much less than 100kg per year (around 10kg). Patiens last year (2017) ended up being without cures for 9-10 months. Disponibility ended at around END of february.

    As for laws regarding possession and cultivation:
    In Italy you CAN smoke marijuana, but you CANNOT possess it (pretty confusing, eh?). In Italy you cannot also grow marijuana, as the limit for possession is stated below 10g, and we all know marijuana doesn’t yield so little. Even if the plant is grown in a cup of beer, it yields more.
    If caught in possession of one single plant, the grower/user risks from 2 to 6 years in jail, plus a fine going up to 80.000 euros.
    If caught in possession of 10 and more grams of marijuana, the consumer risks both jail for potential drug traffic, and a good 12-18 months of Rehabilitation for “marijuana addiction”, no matter what was the amount or the purpose of its detention.

    I’d move Italy from the so called “decriminalized” area ’cause it’s certanly not.

    Italy laws regarding marijuana are dumb, and more aimed towards industrial hemp and hemp flowers (no thc, high cbd, no medicinal properties), rather than actual medical or recreational marijuana.

    In a place suffering with 2 thousand billions in public debt, marijuana could save the country (at least 4 million consumers daily, more than 9 in their lifetime) in less than 25 years, only by taxes. Yet, this is the actual situation, and doesn’t keen to move towards proper legalization and liberalization of our private lives, and human rights.

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi Mario,

      Thank you for your comment and the information you have given us on Italian law. We are planning to update our entire series of ‘Cannabis In…’ articles in the near future and so I will pass on your comment to the writer.

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

  13. Good Article. Considering the wide benefits of Cannabis, it is draconian that it is being branded by bureaucrats as something evil.

    Obviously if someone is very stoned they should not boil a kettle, yet alone drive a car.

    But if you have a joint in the evening to relax, how can you be sure you wont be stopped next day and charged like a criminal, because of ridiculous low thresholds.

    Stupid laws ruining peoples freedom.

  14. I have just purchased a bottle of CanavapE Koko Kush 600/60
    This has no thc in it at all and I assumed that as it was easily available online with many good review that it was legal . Whilst your article on legality in Europe is very interesting it doesn’t seem to refer to the cbd e juice I have bought.
    Is this product legal in UK? It’s not on prescription. Also is it legal in Spain? It’s not clear enough.
    I would appreciate any advice or suggestions of other links, this is all very new to me so I’m pretty ignorant
    Thankyou in advance

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi Mimi,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m afraid I can’t answer your question, as your e-liquid is not one of our products; also this article is only concerned with medicinal cannabis, not e-liquid. If possible, I recommend that you check with a legal specialist in your area (it’s not clear to me where you are). The CBD e-liquid from Sensi Seeds is legal in both Spain and the UK though. Sorry I can’t help you further.

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

  15. Switzerland has 1 restriction however, above 20% CBD the product is considered to be a medicine.

  16. Winston Matthews

    In the UK we use cannabis based drugs and this is how we deal with this .

    NEW DRUG DRIVING RULES
    Advice for those prescribed Sativex
    INTRODUCED IN ENGLAND AND WALES ON 2 MARCH 2015

    From 2 March 2015 there will be a new law on driving after taking certain drugs (including some medicines) in England and Wales. This law states that it is an offence to drive with certain drugs above specified blood levels in the body, whether your driving is impaired or not. This will make it easier for the police to tackle drug drivers.The new law sets limits at very low levels for eight drugs commonly associated with illegal drug use, such as cannabis and cocaine, to tackle illegal drug use and driving. The law also includes eight drugs commonly associated with medicinal use,that are sometimes abused, that have been set at higher limits based on the available evidence of the road safety risk and to reflect their use as medicines.The majority of patients that are fit to drive and are taking medicines as
    directed are unlikely to be above the specified limit and therefore would not be committing the new offence. Even if you are above the specified limit but your driving is not impaired and you are taking your medicine in accordance with the advice of a healthcare professional and/or as printed in the accompanying leaflet you will also be within the law.Prescribed Sativex: The Government has carefully considered Sativex, as it is a cannabis plant based drug that has a licence for medical use in the UK where it is prescribed for the treatment of spasticity in multiple sclerosis (MS).
    SPECIFIED DRUGS
    For the purposes of roadside screening tests, the police would not be able to distinguish using a preliminary saliva test between a driver taking cannabis and a driver taking Sativex. Therefore patients treated with Sativex are likely to give a positive preliminary saliva result and might subsequently be over the specified blood limit. However, if you are an MS sufferer who in the opinion of a doctor is able to drive safely you should not be deterred from either taking your medicine or from driving. In these circumstances there is a statutory medical defence that can be raised for the new drug driving offence.Certain medicines may affect your ability to drive and it will remain an offence to drive while your ability is impaired by drugs as there is no defence of being impaired to drive. You should also always continue to take your medicine in accordance with the advice of a healthcare professional and/or as printed in the accompanying leaflet but if in doubt about whether you are impaired you should not drive.
    What will happen if I’m stopped by the police?
    The ‘medical defence’ can be raised for the new offence if drivers are taking medication as directed and found to be over the limit and not impaired. Drivers taking relevant medicines may choose to have evidence with them when driving to indicate that they have been legitimately supplied and minimise inconvenience. The medical defence states that you are not guilty if:
    the medicine was prescribed, supplied, or sold to you to treat a medical or dental problem, andyou took the medicine according to the instructions given by the prescriber, a pharmacist or a member of the pharmacy team or the information provided with the medicine.MS is a medical condition that must be notified to the DVLA. If your doctor provides an opinion to the DVLA that you are safe to drive then the DVLA would notify you that a short-term driving licence will be issued for up to three years. The notification letter sent by the DVLA will also provide advice on the new drug driving offence and the medical defence.

    This letter could be kept with you as evidence, along with your prescription, counterfoil or any letter, report or advice from a healthcare professional so that you can raise the medical defence at the earliest opportunity and reduce any inconvenience. If the police are satisfied that you are taking your medication under the supervision and/or advice of a healthcare professional (such as the prescriber, your doctor or pharmacist) and your driving is not impaired, they can allow you to proceed.
    What should I do if I need to take any of the specified medicines?
    Keep taking your medicines as prescribed.Check the leaflet that comes with your medicines for information on how your medicines may affect your driving ability.Do not drive after taking your medicines until you know how they affect you. Do not drive if you feel drowsy, dizzy, unable to concentrate or make decisions, or if you have blurred or double vision.If you are taking your medicine in accordance with the advice of a healthcare professional and/or as printed in the accompanying leaflet and your driving is not impaired, then you are not breaking the law. If you are unsure how the change will affect you, talk to your doctor or a member of the pharmacy team.
    For more information go to http://www.gov.uk/drug-driving-law

    Product code: TINF1480

  17. Håkan Anderberg

    Soon most cars will be driven by robotics so … it’s not any big issue really. I drove 40.000 km a year mainly in the city, for years – never had an accident, smoked 4-5 a day. You are a bit more careful is my experience.

  18. sev zakrzewski

    Dear Sir,
    My Partners and I are very active in North America with top players in the Medical Marijuana sector.
    Recently, we helped IBM close a deal with DMG regarding blockchain technology to help bridge tracking of medical marijuana. https://equity.guru/2018/10/05/dmg-blockchain-dmgi-v-partners-ibm-canada-develop-global-blockchain-platform/
    My partners will be visiting Europe in November, so perhaps we can schedule a call to discuss cooperation beforehand with anyone you may know in the sector.
    I look forward to hearing from you.

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi Sev,

      Thanks for reaching out. I have forwarded your comment to the relevant department so that they can take the appropriate next steps.

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet (actually not a Sir)

  19. Trevor Meredith

    It would seem from reading the above that much of the cannibis is not in an oil form. If a person is taking cannibis (oil) to alleviate back pain resulting from operations would they be allowed to take the cannibis that has been prescribed to them and supported by a doctor into Spain for their holiday there. Just enough for their trip of 30 days would be taken. Also would they get through customs without any hassles? Thank you

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi Trevor,

      Thanks for you comment. Unfortunately I do not know the answer to your question; my advice is to consult a qualified legal professional to make sure that you get the right information. Sorry I can’t help you further, and I hope you continue to enjoy the blog.

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

  20. When you consider the mentality and apparent lack of understanding of people who know nothing about cannabis, their attitude tends to be one of sensational ignorant fear coupled with a judgemental bias that has no reasonable foundation. Ref; ‘Reefer Madness’ The movie is more insane than any cannabis environment.

  21. When we all begin to have a open mind about all the benefits of marijuana the world will heal. How can a plant be so dangerous to society? We have so much to be concerned about live prescription pain pills, alcohol, Meth, Cocaine and the list go on and one. The time and money spend on trying to control a plant can be used to help with human trafficking or the epidemic of homelessness. I will never understand this world and dont have the desire to.

  22. Global legalization will bring peace no more to say. Why is weed such a threat to the world? No deaths no overdoses no crime but they don’t want to make it legal across the world. Banish alcohol and there will be a big change in society.

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    The Sensi Seeds Editorial team has been built throughout our more than 30 years of existence. Our writers and editors include botanists, medical and legal experts as well as renown activists the world over including Lester Grinspoon, Micha Knodt, Robert Connell Clarke, Maurice Veldman, Sebastian Maríncolo, James Burton and Seshata.
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    Maurice Veldman

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