When Amsterdam pioneered “coffee shops” in the 1970s, the European capital was one of very few places where you could openly buy and smoke weed—and it quickly became a global mecca for marijuana enthusiasts. But over the last decade, the grass has grown greener on the other side of the Atlantic, with Colorado and Washington state legalizing recreational cannabis use in 2012 and Uruguay becoming the first country to legalize it the next year, followed by Canada in 2018.
Europe has fallen behind, with the focus on decriminalization rather than full legalization. But now Germany is trying to become the first European Union member to legalize cannabis. Its neighbors are watching closely, in both curiosity and disapproval, while the global marijuana industry eyes a new market of 80 million potential customers.