EU drug agency sees no U.S.-like cannabis legalization moves

By Andrei Khalip LISBON (Reuters) - European Union countries are unlikely to legalize marijuana any time soon as some parts of the United States have done recently, EU drug monitoring agency chief Wolfgang Gotz said on Thursday. He did not spell out why he expected no corresponding EU moves. But in a statement, his agency said a key finding in its latest annual report was a "marked rise in the potency and purity of Europe's most commonly used illicit drugs, fuelling concerns for the health of users who, wittingly or unwittingly, may be consuming stronger products". It also pointed out an increase in the numbers of cannabis-related health emergencies in Europe between 2008 and 2012. Gotz told a briefing arranged to present the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction's report: "In Europe I do not know any government, or parliamentary majority backing a government, that is currently seriously discussing cannabis legalization or regulation in a different way. "I don't see a discussion coming up of the level as it is in the Americas," he said in Lisbon, the agency's headquarters. Portugal pioneered the decriminalization of all drug use in 2001 and some countries have followed suit, making possession of small quantities of drugs, especially marijuana, a misdemeanor rather than criminal offence. Germany allows seriously ill patients to grow, buy and consume their own cannabis under a special license, and medical marijuana is legal in the Czech Republic, but otherwise cultivation and use remain illegal in the EU. In the United States, 23 states and the District of Columbia allow medical marijuana, and voters in four states have gone further by approving the drug for recreational use by adults. But the drug remains illegal under federal law, which classifies pot as a dangerous narcotic with no current medical use. The EU drug monitoring agency said technical innovation and market competition have led to an increase in the potency of cannabis, the purity of cocaine and the MDMA-content in ecstasy tablets. It also flagged market changes such as detection of heroin processing laboratories in Europe and a greater diversification of trafficking routes and opioid products, which, combined with a substantial increase in opium production in Afghanistan, could reverse declines in heroin supply and stagnation of demand. (Additional reporting by Miguel Pereira; Editing by Mark Heinrich)