It’s illegal to use, buy or sell cannabis in Hungary. Laws are tough, with long prison sentences in place for serious offences. However, small-scale offenders are rarely prosecuted, especially for first-time offences. The country doesn’t have a medicinal cannabis programme, but its hemp industry, which is long-established, continues to flourish.
Cannabis laws in Hungary
Can you possess and use cannabis in Hungary?
It’s illegal to use and possess cannabis in Hungary, according to the country’s Criminal Code. Cannabis is not differentiated from any other narcotic substance, and the penalties are the same as they are for all illegal drugs.
Consumption has recently been reintroduced as a criminal offence. If caught using or in possession of cannabis, the offender may receive a one to five-year prison sentence. In cases where the amount of cannabis is regarded as ‘small’, the sentence is limited to a maximum of two years.
‘Small’ is currently defined as 6 grams of THC, which is the active ingredient in cannabis. What this means as to the actual amount of cannabis or resin (hash), depends on the THC contents of the product. Therefore, a ‘small amount’ would be 60g (based on a THC content of 10%).
If the offender is a public official (or entrusted with public functions), this may be increased to five to 10 years’ imprisonment. Since the government created a new Criminal Code in 2013, certain penalties were increased. Now, in cases where the offender is caught with a ‘particularly substantial quantity’, the prison sentence can rise as high as 15 years.
Although these penalties seem harsh on paper, they’re not often enforced, particularly for small-scale offences. Usually, first-time offenders receive a warning, a suspended sentence or a probation order. However, repeat offenders are usually dealt with more severely, and these cases normally lead to prosecution.
Can you sell cannabis in Hungary?
The sale and supply of cannabis in Hungary is illegal. If an individual is involved in the distribution or trafficking of any narcotic drug (including cannabis), then may receive a prison sentence of two to eight years.
This is extended to five to 10 years if the offender does any of the following (this list is not exhaustive):
- Operates with accomplices
- Is a public official or entrusted with public functions
- Is carried out within any of the facilities of the Hungarian Armed Forces / law enforcement agencies / Tax and Customs Authority
- Supplies cannabis to a minor (under 18 years of age)
The sentence is extended further (to five to 20 years or life imprisonment) if a substantial amount of drugs were confiscated.
However, if only a small quantity of cannabis was involved, then the sentence may be suspended at the court’s discretion. As with possession, a ‘small amount’ is defined as containing less than six grams of THC. The courts reportedly always test cannabis specimens in forensic laboratories.
Can you grow cannabis in Hungary?
It’s illegal to cultivate cannabis in Hungary. Though not explicitly stated in the Criminal Code, the law states that “any person who produces, manufactures… narcotic drugs in transit through the territory of Hungary is guilty of a felony”. The charges are the same as for possession.
As with possession or sale, if the amount of cannabis grown is small, the court may decide to suspend the sentence.
Although the prison sentences can be harsh, this doesn’t deter people from growing it in the country. Cannabis seizures aren’t uncommon. For example, in 2019, the police found hundreds of cannabis plants at a home in Budapest. They were being grown within two tents.
Is CBD legal in Hungary?
Hungarian law states that, as long as CBD contains less than 0.2% THC (the substance responsible for the ‘high’) it is regarded as hemp, and is thus legal to use, sell and buy.
Can cannabis seeds be sent to Hungary?
It’s legal to buy and sell cannabis seeds in Hungary, and they can be mailed into the country via the post. However, they must not be germinated or used to grow plants.
Medicinal cannabis in Hungary
Hungary does not have a medicinal cannabis programme. Neither has it registered any accessible cannabis-based products for patients. Despite this, there are ways that certain individuals can gain access to medicinal cannabis in the country – though it’s a difficult process.
At present, cannabis treatment is only available for those with multiple sclerosis (affecting the nervous system). This was established by the National Committee for Pharmaceuticals and Food Health. As the treatment is expensive (several million forints in some cases), use of the drug is not widespread.
Marinol is also available in Hungary. However, this isn’t a true form of medicinal cannabis, as it’s actually a synthetic version of THC. It’s used to treat appetite loss in AIDS patients, and nausea and sickness in cancer patients.
There are signs that Hungary may be starting to warm to the idea of introducing an official medicinal cannabis programme. For example, in 2016, the country held its first cannabis conference in Budapest. One of the speakers was Professor Lumir Hanus, a leading figure in the field of cannabis research.
Industrial hemp in Hungary
There has been an industrial hemp industry in Hungary for centuries; though it went through a period of decline during the years of the Soviet Union. However, since 1991, significant effort has been put into hemp breeding and research, and now, Hungary are once again world-leaders in the field.
The country is responsible for several high-quality fibre strains, which have been added to the list of commercially available cultivars. Many of these were developed by Dr Ivan Bucsa, a renowned breeder at the GATE Agricultural Research Insistute, Kompolt. In addition to creating four state-registered hemp varieties, Bucsa is also responsible for the world’s only commercial ornamental hemp strain, which is known as Panorama. However, in an interview with Hempfood.com, he claims that it “was not much sold”.
Good to know
If you are travelling to Hungary (or currently live there), you may be interested to know the following:
- Herbal cannabis is the most commonly seized drug in Hungary. Cannabis resin (hash) is far less prevalent, and is only the fifth most commonly seized.
- 3.5% of young adults (aged 15 to 34 years old) use cannabis. This figure has declined in recent years; whereas the number of young adults using drugs like cocaine, ecstasy and amphetamines has risen.
- The potency of seized cannabis usually varies from 0.2 to 20%. Cannabis resin (hash) is usually 0.5 to 30%.
Evidence (taken from ancient pollen) suggests that cannabis has been growing in Hungary since at least the latter half of the first millennium BC. Experts suggest this was due to Scythian nomadic tribes, who brought the plants with them.
Over the next two thousand years, the cannabis pollen count steadily increased, which demonstrates that the plant was taking hold in the country. The high pollen count found in bogs dating back to 1000 CE indicates that they were used for the retting of hemp stalks, to extract the fibre.
These days, most of the cannabis found in the wild is hemp-like, and doesn’t tend to have psychoactive properties.
Hungary and hemp – a long history
Hemp has been a part of Hungary’s history for centuries. In the past, farming communities produced hemp textiles of exceptionally high quality, with a fineness that equalled or even exceeded linen. The industry was so prevalent that Hungary’s hemp weavers developed specialist looms and other equipment. In fact, Hungary’s famous traditional dresses (worn by the women) were usually made from hemp and linen.
Hemp weaving was also a social activity. Unmarried women would gather to spin and talk, while sowing and harvesting were regarded as important group activities for the men. However, in the 20th century, the industry suffered some setbacks. Perceptions of the plant were changing across Europe, with much of the continent prohibiting its cultivation.
It was never banned in Hungary, due to the fact that Hungary took its lead from the USSR, rather than the rest of Europe. As a result of this, the industry continued until the 1960s. The Soviets, who were then in control of the country, effectively ended traditional hemp cultivation. State-run hemp farms were permitted, but even these were in decline by 1991, when the Soviet Union was dissolved.
Since then, Hungary fought hard to rebuild its hemp industry. Now it’s one of the world’s leading hemp breeders and researchers.
Until recently, cannabis was the most commonly used drug by young adults in Hungary. Due to the tough laws, most drug-taking (of any kind) is undertaken secretively, to avoid prosecution.
In recent years, the Hungarian government has been focused on making the country ‘drug free’ by 2020 – a target that many felt was unrealistic. Much of the effort was aimed at schools, and directing prevention and awareness initiatives at students. Cannabis use has dropped slightly; though usage of other drugs has risen.
Will it be legalised in the future?
Given the country’s tough stance on cannabis, it seems unlikely that they will move to decriminalise recreational use any time soon. Nor is there any indication that a medicinal cannabis programme will be introduced, even though many other countries in Europe have already made this step.
- 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.