Cannabis Culture Europe Vs America

Cannabis Culture Europe vs America

While researching the cannabis culture we see more and more differences between Europe and America. Let’s take a look at the history, the legal status in both continents, consumption numbers, the smoking culture and the prices of weed.

History cannabis culture Europe

History cannabis culture in United States of America

Legal status cannabis in Europe

Legal status of weed in America

Consumption of weed

Differences in smoking culture

Prices of weed


History cannabis culture Europe

Cannabis culture in Europe dates back to ancient times, with evidence of its cultivation and use found in archaeological sites across the continent. The Scythians, an ancient nomadic people who inhabited Central Asia, were among the first to incorporate cannabis into their culture, using it for both medicinal and spiritual purposes.

The Romans, who came into contact with cannabis through trade with the Scythians, also adopted its use. They employed hemp fibers for textiles, rope, and sails, while also recognizing its medicinal properties. Weed was even used to treat wounds and inflammation.

During the Middle Ages, the use of cannabis declined in Europe, partly due to the spread of Christianity, which discouraged its recreational use. However, hemp cultivation continued for its industrial purposes.

In the 17th century, cannabis use began to reenter in European culture, especially among artists and creative circles. Its association with creativity and enlightenment resonated with these communities. Ever wondered if weed makes you more creative?

The 20th century witnessed a wave of anti-cannabis sentiment, driven by concerns about its psychoactive effects and potential for addiction. This led to the prohibition of cannabis in many European countries, with legislation mirroring the U.S. approach which we’ll cover in the next chapter.

In recent decades, there has been a growing movement to legalize or decriminalize cannabis in Europe, driven by recognition of its potential medical benefits and the desire for more liberal drug policies. This movement has gained momentum, with several countries, including Portugal, Spain, and the Netherlands, adopting more progressive approaches to cannabis regulation. Looking for the best cannabis countries in Europe? We got you!

 Picture of the European flag related to the history of cannabis culture in Europe

History cannabis culture in United States of America

The history of cannabis culture in the United States dates back to the early colonial era, with its introduction by European settlers. Initially, hemp was cultivated for its industrial uses, primarily for rope, textiles, and sails.

In the 19th century, cannabis began to gain recognition for its medicinal properties, with doctors prescribing it to treat a variety of ailments, including pain, nausea, and epilepsy.

However, the 20th century brought about a shift in attitudes towards cannabis in America, with anti-marijuana campaigns associating it with crime and moral decay. This culminated in the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, under which the importation, cultivation, possession and/or distribution of marijuana were regulated.

Despite its legal status, weed use persisted in the United States. The counterculture movement of the 1960s embraced cannabis as a symbol of rebellion and social change.

In recent decades, there has been a resurgence of interest in cannabis, driven by scientific research highlighting its potential therapeutic benefits. This has fueled a movement to legalize or decriminalize cannabis in the United States.


Picture of the United States of America flag related to the history of cannabis culture in America

Legal status cannabis in Europe

In Europe, cannabis remains largely illegal. Possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use is generally decriminalized, but selling or growing cannabis is a serious offense that can result in prison time depending on the country you’re in.

However, there is a growing movement to legalize or decriminalize cannabis in Europe. So far there are only two countries in which recreational use of weed is fully legal: Luxembourg and Malta. In another 17 countries recreational cannabis use is decriminalized, for example in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Spain and The Netherlands. Even more countries have legalized medical use of weed, which is a great step towards acknowledging the potential benefits of the plant.

The European Union has been more cautious in its approach to cannabis regulation. While it has recognized the potential medicinal benefits of cannabis, it has not called for its legalization. The European Commission has stated that it will not interfere with national policies on cannabis, but it has also encouraged member states to implement stricter regulations on cannabis cultivation and sales.

 Picture of a legal statue related to the legal status of cannabis in Europe versus America

Legal status of weed in America

At the federal level, cannabis is still classified as a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin and LSD, indicating its high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use. This classification has hampered research into cannabis and made it difficult for states to legalize recreational or medical cannabis use.

However, the cannabis legalization in the United States is rapidly changing. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis (2023), with several states also legalizing weed for recreational use. These state laws have created a complex and inconsistent legal environment, where cannabis is legal in some places and strictly prohibited in others.

The federal government has taken a more ambivalent stance towards cannabis legalization. While it continues to classify cannabis as a Schedule I drug, the Obama administration allowed states to experiment with medical cannabis programs. The Trump administration reversed this policy, but the Biden administration has signaled a willingness to respect state cannabis laws. So far the recent developments have been great for cannabis culture, with hopefully more states to adjust their restrictions.


Consumption of weed

Weed is the most used drug in Europe, with around 8% of people between 15 to 64 who have used cannabis in the last your (1). According to the research around 1.3% of adults in Europe are daily smokers. Overall, guys are twice as likely to use cannabis compared to girls. The biggest percentage of users are between 15 and 24 year old, of which 18.2% have smoked weed over the last year.

According to a research in 2021, 18.7% of people above 12 years old have used cannabis in 2021 in America (2). Interesting to see is the growth over the last years, as in 2015 about 8.3% of the same group of people have used cannabis. The legal changes over the last years are likely the reason for this increase, as well as the change in overall opinion about weed.

 Picture of a burning joint related to cannabis consumption in Europe vs America

Differences in smoking culture

Cannabis culture in Europe and the United States have notable distinctions, reflecting diverse historical, social, and legal contexts. While both regions share are embracing cannabis use, the nuances in consumption practices, social attitudes, and legal frameworks contribute to a unique cultural experience on each side of the Atlantic.

One noteworthy difference lies in the way of using cannabis. In Europe, it is commonplace to mix cannabis with tobacco when rolling joints. During the 1960s and 1970s, hash was widely consumed in Europe. Pure hash does not burn correctly in rolling paper, leading to adding tobacco for a better smoking experience. This trend persists today, with many pre-rolled joints available containing tobacco, and many individuals opting to roll spliffs (joint with tobacco) rather than joints. However, this is changing rapidly. Smoking with tobacco is more addictive and contains higher levels of harmful substances compared to smoking pure weed.

The USA has seen a big increase in the popularity of cannabis over the past few decades, especially with the legalization of medicinal and recreational use in various states. However, the American cannabis culture often favors the consumption of cannabis in its pure form, without the addition of tobacco. The prevalence of smoking devices such as pipes, bongs, and vaporizers is higher in the U.S., reflecting a culture that places a strong emphasis on the purity and potency of the cannabis experience. Also dabbing is more common in America, but is mainly due to social media gaining popularity in Europe as well.

Moreover, the legal landscape significantly impacts cannabis culture. In the United States, the legalization movement has gained momentum, resulting in a growing acceptance of cannabis in many states. This has greatly influenced the development of a more open and diverse cannabis culture, resulting in the development of many new products and consumption methods.


Prices of weed

In America the costs of cannabis differ much per state. As Open Your Mind is a Dutch (European) based company, we are used to looking at the prices per gram in stead of per ounce or pound. The highest prices of weed in America you can find in the District of Columbia with an average price of €21 per gram (3) of high quality marihuana.
The cheapest cannabis you can find in Colorado, which an average of only €8,50 per gram of high quality weed. We can’t wait to try weed from the United States!

As with the different states of America, the prices of weed differ a lot depending on the country in Europe. In some countries weed is still illegal, and not decriminalized or legalized. Therefore it is hard to find trustable data about the prices of weed nowadays. We have plenty of experience though of buying weed in The Netherlands, where Coffeeshops (our word for weed dispensaries) have a big variety of different strains in the menu. Usually you pay between €10 and €25 euro per gram, depending on the coffeeshop you go and the quality of the weed you buy. According to some online resources prices in Germany and Spain are pretty similar.


  1. European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (2023), European Drug Report 2023: Trends and Developments
  2. 2021 NSDUH Annual National Report. (z.d.). CBHSQ Data.
  3. Editorial Staff. (2023, 18 april). The average cost of marijuana by state - Oxford Treatment Center. Oxford Treatment Center. 

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