Cannabis law and legislation in Austria

Medical use

According to the Addictive Drugs Act, only the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES; supervised by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection) is permitted to cultivate cannabis for the purpose of manufacturing pharmaceuticals as well as for related scientific purposes. The same right is granted to subsidiaries in which AGES holds at least 75% of the shares and that are founded for this purpose.

Production, manufacturing, conversion, purchase and possession of medical cannabis requires a specific authorisation for trading of pharmaceuticals according to the Austrian Trade Act. Furthermore, trade of medical cannabis products requires an authorisation issued by the Federal Ministry for Health.

There is no access for patients to cannabis in its purest form for medical use as cannabis is considered as an addictive drug according to the Addictive Drugs Act and the Ordinance for Addictive Drugs. Therefore, it in principle may not be prescribed. However, there are two exemptions for pharmaceuticals containing cannabis which may be prescribed: (i) formulations of cannabis extracts that are authorised as proprietary medicinal products, and (ii) the active substance delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol, if it has a standardised purity of more than 95% used for magistral preparations (production in the pharmacy on the basis of a medical prescription).

Violations of the Addictive Drugs Act are subject to administrative fines up to EUR 36,300 and - in case of non-collection – to imprisonment of up to six weeks. Besides, anyone who illegally purchases, owns, produces, transports, imports, exports or offers, transfers or procures cannabis to another, or cultivates the cannabis plant for the purpose of obtaining addictive drugs shall be punished with imprisonment of up to one year or with fines of up to EUR 360 daily rates. When it comes to drug trafficking on a larger scale, harsher punishments may be given.

Recreational use

Production, import and sale of recreational cannabis is strictly forbidden according to the Addictive Drugs Act.

Industrial use

The use of industrial cannabis is permitted, if the THC content of the cannabis variety does not exceed 0.3% before, during and after the production process. In this case, the Addictive Drugs Act is not applicable. This makes it possible to obtain cannabis-containing foods e.g. cannabis leaves (tea), cannabis seeds, cannabis (seed) oil, cannabis (seed) flour, cannabis (seed) protein and drinks (beer, lemonade). Also, production of cannabis fibre is permitted within the 0.3% THC limit.

CBD as a pure substance is not defined as an addictive drug and thus is not subject to the legal provisions applicable to addictive substances such as the Addictive Drugs Act and the Ordinance for Addictive Drugs.

Can CBD be used in food? Food containing CBD extracts are considered as novel food according to regulation (EU) 2015/2283. Only authorised and registered novel food may be placed on the market. No CBD extracts have been authorised as of yet.

Can CBD be used in cosmetics? Natural and synthetic narcotics are prohibited in cosmetic products. Cannabis and its extracts are considered as such and thus may not be placed on the market.

Patentability

It is possible to patent a cannabis-based product if the product consists of a technical invention that is new, inventive and commercially applicable.

Latest developments

The Austrian Chamber of Pharmacists has been lobbying for the use of cannabis for medical purposes, however revision of any cannabis related provisions or a change of policy is not expected.

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