Everything you need to know about cannabis legalisation in Germany

Di: Contributor Attivismo

In line with its electoral promise, the German coalition government is taking the first steps to legalise marijuana across the country, by initiating a series of hearings that will help shape legislation to end the ban. However, even though all government partners agree on this matter, details have not yet been discussed, which may delay the process up to several years. For now, this is what we know about the transformation of what will be the largest European market for marijuana.

When the German centre-left parties were holding negotiations to create a coalition government after the 2021 federal elections, practically the first thing they agreed on was the need to legalise cannabis. The minor parties in the pact (the Green environmentalists and the Liberal Democrats) had long been pushing for the legalisation of marijuana; and the leaders of the coalition, the Social Democrats of Chancellor Olaf Scholz, had also campaigned to soften cannabis laws.

Large-scale legalisation now seems inevitable, which could bring annual tax revenues and cost savings in the judicial and police systems of around €4.7 billion, along with the creation of 27,000 new jobs, according to a recent report by the Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics.

This will represent a seismic shift for Europe, given that Germany is the largest market on the continent. The country has a major influence on the political and economic development of the EU, so the long-anticipated legalisation of recreational cannabis will surely lead other EU countries to follow suit.

However, inevitable doesn’t mean immediate. While Germany legalised medical cannabis in 2016, and personal possession of marijuana has already been decriminalised, many questions still need to be answered before the first joint can be sold legally.

Where is the process at right now?

For the moment, Burkhard Blienert, the German Commissioner for Addiction and Drug Affairs, has been holding a series of five talks with more than 200 stakeholders, including doctors specialised in addictions, cannabis associations, and international experts. The results will be presented at the end of June, which will lay the groundwork for the legalisation strategy expected in the autumn.

Who will be allowed to sell cannabis?

Currently, only pharmacies can sell medical cannabis in Germany, and it seems unlikely that this will change for recreational cannabis. The Federal Association of German Pharmacists has already stated that “with different distribution channels, it will be difficult to enforce high and uniform standards of consumer protection if recreational cannabis is not sold in pharmacies”. But not everyone agrees. “Pharmacies are there to sell drugs. Otherwise, they would also have to include beer and cigarettes in their assortment”, claimed the German Hemp Association.

According to the coalition agreement, cannabis should be distributed in ‘licensed stores’. But what constitutes a licensed store hasn’t yet been defined. The big players, both national and international, will certainly push to enter the retail market, which will grow from 20 tons to 400 tons of medical and recreational cannabis per year, according to this study.

Who will be able to purchase it?

The coalition agreement makes it quite clear that only adults should have access to cannabis shops, which should be located at a minimum distance from schools and youth centres to protect minors. The German Medical Association agrees; they recently claimed in a written statement: “Medically, an age restriction of at least 21 years of age (preferably older, probably +25 years old) makes sense”.

How will it be regulated?

To ensure that the marijuana that is sold is safe, not only is it necessary to have reliable suppliers and sellers, but also to ensure that the strains are regulated. “As the data shows, high THC levels (of over 20%) are associated with significantly higher health risks (for instance, psychotic reactions) than cannabis with low THC levels”, said the German Medical Association. Therefore, a THC limit of 10 to 15% is recommended.

“We need to offer legal cannabis for a lower price than on the black market”, Commissioner Burkhard Blienert has insisted on several occasions, suggesting a gradual tax scale that makes it possible to sell cannabis with lower levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) at lower prices than those of more powerful products.

When it comes to supply, “the Dutch model is not a model for Germany”, the German Narcotics Commissioner also said recently. The Dutch allowed the sale of cannabis in coffee shops in 1976, but didn’t allow its legal and controlled purchase. Mr Blienert doesn’t want this for Germany: “We have to monitor the whole supply chain… from cultivation to trade and sale”, he added.

Where will cannabis come from?

Currently, Germany only allows cannabis cultivation under very strict conditions. The plant must be grown in bunker-type buildings under high safety guidelines. However, it is neither sensible nor sustainable to grow cannabis exclusively indoors; so, once cannabis is legalised, these rules could be relaxed to create better growing conditions to meet demand.

Some German states also allow the import of cannabis as long as it meets certain criteria. And, if that cannabis is refined in Germany, it can now be sold as medical cannabis.

The Hemp Association also demands that home cultivation of marijuana for personal use is legalised: “It makes no sense to prosecute users for a few cannabis plants, while kilos of weed go over the counter in the shop next door every day”.

Are there any legal obstacles?

But not everything is as green as it seems: by legalising recreational cannabis, Germany runs the risk of violating international law. The United Nations 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs prohibits Germany from legalising recreational cannabis because it prohibits states from cultivating and trafficking cannabis whose purpose isn’t medical or scientific.

To avoid breaking the law, Berlin would first have to withdraw from the convention, which could take up to a year. Alternatively, Germany could choose to ignore the convention, just like Canada, which has not been sanctioned for its cannabis policy to date, despite having received repeated reprimands from the International Narcotics Control Board.

Certain German politicians are also likely to oppose. Whilst a law to legalise recreational cannabis might get approval more easily from the Bundestag (Parliament), where the pro-legalisation parties have a majority, it may be more difficult for it to be approved in the Bundesrat (the Upper House or Senate), which represents the German states at federal level. Centre-right Christian Democrats have a blocking majority there, which could therefore become a real obstacle.

Experts estimate that it will be two or three years before the government provides a legal starting mark for the recreational cannabis market. Laws in Germany usually take up to a year and a half to move from idea to implementation, and in this case it is necessary to build an entirely new legal market, transferred from illegal to legal. So the patience of the Germans, and all of Europe, will be key to guaranteeing the success of this venture.

Kannabia Seeds Company sells to its customers a product collection, a souvenir. We cannot and we shall not give growing advice since our product is not intended for this purpose.

Kannabia accept no responsibility for any illegal use made by third parties of information published. The cultivation of cannabis for personal consumption is an activity subject to legal restrictions that vary from state to state. We recommend consultation of the legislation in force in your country of residence to avoid participation in any illegal activity.

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