Legalisation of cannabis in Germany: everything you need to know

Di: Contributor Attivismo

Cannabis legalisation is getting closer in Germany! From 1st April 2024, and providing everything goes according to plan, cannabis will be available for purchase and use as a recreational product in the country. In this comprehensive article, you’ll find a detailed guide on how Germany is navigating this paradigm shift. From the legal aspects, such as the allowed limit for possession and cultivation, to more technical details, like the maximum permitted THC content, along with many other factors.

As of today, buying or selling cannabis is still illegal in Germany, with cultivation and possession also being prohibited. But the planned legalisation of marijuana for recreational use is coming… and very soon. If everything goes according to the plans of the Federal Government, domestic cultivation and possession of certain amounts of marijuana will be allowed for adults as of 1st April 2024. And cannabis clubs for collective cultivation should be possible from 1st July 2024. Let’s look at how the events have developed so far, to understand where this process currently stands.

Timeline to understand the legalisation process in Germany

The regulation of cannabis for recreational purposes was one of the great promises of the German government’s ‘traffic light coalition’ (based on the colours of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Free Democratic Party (FDP), and the Greens). This seemed to be one of the few projects that the coalition partners had agreed on since they came to power in 2021.

Through the Cannabis Control Act (or CanG for short), the coalition agreement between the SPD, the Greens, and the FDP would make possible the “distribution of cannabis to adults in licensed stores for recreational purposes”. The cultivation and sale of cannabis in Germany would be regulated by the State, and the cultivation of some plants for personal use would also be permitted. The regulation of the distribution of medical cannabis through public pharmacies was also on the agenda (in actual fact, medical cannabis has been decriminalised in the country since 2017).

The Federal Government justified the bill, which has been debated ever since, by stating that the prohibition policy did not prevent the use of cannabis but rather increased it. What’s more, legal and state-supervised sales could improve both youth protection and health because there would be less contaminated cannabis in circulation. The Federal Minister for Health Karl Lauterbach (SPD) presented the first concrete ideas for its implementation in the autumn of 2022, in a document on the key points, in what constituted a draft law that should have been ready by the end of March 2023.

But the legal requirements of the European Union forced them to change these plans: “The legalisation of cannabis planned by the Federal Government contradicts the requirements of international and European law”, stated the legal opinion commissioned to that effect. Therefore, the plans of the traffic light coalition directly violated the United Nations Conventions on Drugs.

A change of course towards stricter legalisation

Instead of far-reaching legalisation, the Federal Government then promised decriminalisation, with stricter conditions following a two-step approach. In late November 2023, the coalition factions agreed, in a new document of key points, to remove cannabis from the list of prohibited substances in the Narcotics Act. Domestic cultivation and possession of certain amounts of this drug would be allowed for adults as of 1st April 2024. They would also allow community cultivation in the so-called ‘cannabis social clubs’, which should be possible from 1st July. This is what is known as ‘Pillar 1′ of the future law.

The German authorities also planned to eventually introduce a second complementary measure which would establish pilot programmes for commercial sales in cities across the country. After the Bundestag approved the ‘Pillar 1’ legalisation measure, lawmakers would continue to work together on this ‘Pillar 2’.

However, the national SPD politicians expressed concern shortly after the agreement was reached. This involved introducing several adjustments, such as stricter minimum distances from schools and nurseries when cannabis is being used.

The vote on the legalisation of cannabis should have taken place in the Bundestag in December 2023 for the law to enter into force in early 2024. But the bill suddenly disappeared from the parliamentary agenda. This was a purely cosmetic decision: they didn’t want to decide on legalisation in the midst of a budget dispute and with the Israeli War just beginning.

Legalisation of cannabis: this is what the opposition says

But the reality is that the bill has found considerable resistance in parts of the SPD, the coalition’s majority party. Concerns are particularly pronounced among the interior ministers of the Länder but have also been expressed by the interior federal minister Nancy Faeser (SPD), so a majority to push the bill forward is highly uncertain at this moment.

Among the obstacles that have cropped up along the way is the Judges’ Association, who, amongst other things, criticised that the law was actually “too detailed” and would impose an additional burden, as it would lead to numerous judicial proceedings. Opponents also include the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), who fear that the large number of demands of the law will place an additional burden on law enforcement.

In addition, the associations of paediatric and adolescent doctors have warned against possible health risks for young people: their mental health and development opportunities would be threatened by the proposed partial legalisation.

When would cannabis be permitted in Germany?

However, despite the resistance found in the traffic light coalition, and especially in his own party, Karl Lauterbach is choosing to stick to the planned legalisation of cannabis. “I still believe that the cannabis law will be approved in the Bundestag in the week of the 19th to 23rd February, once the budget negotiations are over, so that it can be implemented from 1st April. Discussions on this are very promising”, he recently declared to the newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

After the final reading of the bill in the Bundestag, it will be passed to the Bundesrat, which is the Länder chamber, the independent body representing the German federal states that is also involved in the legislative process. The bill will be discussed there on 22nd March; and, if it goes ahead (members of the Bundesrat already tried to block the proposed reform in September, but ultimately failed), the bill could still be enacted before its recently revised deadline of 1st April 2024.

Cannabis advertising at a traffic light in Aachen, Germany.

FAQs about the legalisation of cannabis in Germany

Here’s a list of the most relevant questions and answers that you need to know about the upcoming regularisation of cannabis in Germany.

Why is cannabis still illegal in Germany?

Unlike legal addictive substances like tobacco and alcohol, cannabis is currently considered an illegal substance in Germany. Along with drugs such as heroin or MDMA (ecstasy), it is included in the Narcotics Drugs Act (BtMG). This means that any possession of cannabis or cannabis products (hashish, marijuana, etc.) currently remains a punishable offence. If the amount is small, and is intended for personal use, the prosecutor may refrain from prosecuting the person. The weight limit for a quantity to be classified as low varies according to each federal state.

How many grams are permitted per person?

  • Adults may possess up to 25 grams of cannabis for personal use.
  • In private cultivation, the limit allowed is up to 50 grams or up to three plants with female flowers per adult.
  • Possession of 30 grams or more in public spaces, or 60 grams in private spaces, is punishable. If possession limits are exceeded, there is a risk of fines of up to €30,000.

What is still prohibited with regards to cannabis?

The planned criminal provisions will be relaxed so that, if the possession limits are slightly exceeded, the full severity of the criminal proceedings will not be immediately threatened. Originally, possession of more than 25 grams was considered a criminal offence. Now, quantities between 25 and 30 grams in public areas, and between 50 and 60 grams in private areas, should only be considered an administrative offence. Only if those amounts are exceeded would possession become a criminal offence which, in theory, could be punishable by imprisonment.

Are previous cannabis sentences being pardoned?

Yes. Previous convictions for either possession or personal cultivation of up to 25 grams or a maximum of three plants may be removed from the Federal Central Register upon request. The relevant ongoing criminal and investigative proceedings will also be terminated.

Where can you legally buy marijuana?

Initially, cultivation and distribution should be possible through non-profit growing associations or cannabis clubs, such as those already permitted in some regions of Spain and Malta. In these, the plants must be grown “communally” and “not commercially”, and only sold to club members. Funding comes from the membership fees. A maximum of 500 members per club is allowed, and simultaneous membership in several clubs is prohibited.

  • Quantity: Cannabis clubs may provide their members with a maximum of 25 grams of cannabis per day and up to 50 grams per month.
  • Age restriction and THC content: Members under 21 have a maximum limit of 30 grams per month, and with a maximum THC content of 10%.
  • Location: Associations must maintain a minimum distance of 200 metres from schools and other facilities for children and young people. They cannot be located within an apartment or any other building or property used for residential purposes.
  • Rules to apply: Cannabis use is not permitted ‘in situ’ in cannabis associations. It may only be distributed in ‘neutral packaging’ with an instruction booklet. Grow rooms and cannabis club facilities should be fenced and designed to be theft-proof.
  • Youth protection: Each club must create a youth health and protection protocol. It must also appoint a prevention and addiction officer who must receive training and take regular refresher courses.
  • Other: Each year, clubs must inform authorities of how much cannabis was produced, distributed, or destroyed during the previous year; and what their current inventory is, including the content of active ingredients (THC and CBD).

How many plants can you have for private use?

Adult residents or regular residents in Germany can grow up to three cannabis plants simultaneously for personal use in their home. Cannabis from private grows may not be transferred to third parties.

How do you get marijuana seeds for private cultivation?

Cannabis seeds can be imported from EU member states for private cultivation. Seeds can be purchased online or by distance selling and shipping to Germany. In addition, growing clubs can pass along up to seven cannabis seeds or five cuttings per month to adult members, provided that the cannabis seeds and cuttings have been created through community cultivation.

What should you look out for when growing cannabis at home?

Appropriate safety precautions should be taken to prevent access to the grown cannabis, plants, and seeds by children, young people, and other third parties. This includes storing cannabis plants, harvested marijuana, or hashish in locked cupboards or rooms. In addition, no unreasonable inconvenience or disturbance may be caused to the neighbourhood. If necessary, you should avoid causing any discomfort produced by strong odours through the use of ventilation or air filtration systems.

Domestic grows should be discreet and never include more than three plants.

Can teenagers buy or use cannabis?

Young people under 18 are prohibited from possessing and using cannabis. However, if they are caught in possession of marijuana, this won’t lead to criminal prosecution, but they will have to participate in prevention programmes. To protect minors, some penalties will also be increased. For instance, people over 21 who encourage or support minors to grow or buy cannabis could face a prison sentence of up to five years. There is also a lower permitted THC limit for people aged 18 to 21 when they buy cannabis.

Is smoking marijuana allowed in public?

Cannabis use is prohibited within 100 metres of schools, nurseries, playgrounds, and public sports facilities. According to the bill, smoking marijuana is not allowed in pedestrian areas between 7:00 and 20:00.

What’s the penalty for using cannabis whilst driving?

At the end of March 2024, the Federal Ministry of Transport will propose a limit for the active ingredient of cannabis (THC), in order to establish a regulation similar to that for alcohol (which has a limit of 0.5 per thousand). Nowadays, there is a strict ban on driving a car or motorcycle under the influence of cannabis. This can lead to a fine of at least 500 euros, a driving ban for several months, two points on the licence, or, in the worst-case scenario, withdrawal of the driving licence.

Will commercial cannabis be sold freely?

In the second step of the 2024 cannabis legalisation, commercial supply chains will be tested in various municipalities in several federal states, from production to distribution and sale in specialist stores. It is not yet clear which regions will be selected for this purpose. Several cities, such as Berlin, Bremen, and Schwerin, have already expressed their interest. Bavaria, on the other hand, is totally against these plans: the state fears the emergence of drug tourism. Projects should be scientifically supported, limited to five years, and just for the residents of these communities. According to the Federal Government, this second step of the planned legalisation should be carried out in coordination with the EU.

Is cannabis currently allowed for medical use?

Yes. From a legal point of view, medical cannabis should be clearly separated from cannabis for non-medical purposes. Therefore, medical cannabis is not regulated in the Cannabis Act, but in a separate Medical Cannabis Act. The content of existing regulations on medical cannabis remains essentially unchanged, and medical cannabis may continue to be prescribed as a medicinal product in accordance with the requirements of the applicable social legislation.

Why is legalisation in Germany important for the rest of the world?

Germany is the latest country to discard, postpone, or submit significantly smoothed cannabis legalisation plans after originally promising large-scale legalisation. These political shifts offer an important lesson to other countries on the importance of acting strategically and not reflectively.

Germany is trying to update its policies on cannabis and defend a marijuana industry for its population of over 83 million people. In comparison, the combined population of the four currently legal nations (Uruguay, Canada, Malta, and Luxembourg) is only about half the population of Germany.

And when legalisation inevitably becomes a reality in Germany, other nations will surely follow suit, which in turn will result in cannabis policies being modernised on a much larger global scale than they are now. Therefore, this new bill is a major milestone worth celebrating, both inside and outside Germany’s borders.

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.