A report on the state of cannabis legalisation in Germany

February 21, 2023 | Category : Global CannaVigilance | Posted By : Deon Maas

Hello friends of CannaVigilance,

It has been a long time since this much speculative ink has been written about a single subject. No-one really knows what’s going on. So, we decided to pull all the latest news together about the state of cannabis legalisation in Germany. That way you can make up your own mind. Discover Cannavigia CEO Luc Richner’s opinion by reading until the end of the newsletter.

Fourteen months ago, the path seemed clear and open. A new German three party coalition government would legalise cannabis within a year or two and be the first country in Europe to achieve this. That idea is out the window. At the moment a lot of things are being said about Germany and cannabis legalisation and it seems that there are as many possibilities as there are opinions.

From the outside Germany always looks like they know what they are doing. They seem to have an effective public transport system, laws that make total sense and a certain logic to how they think that has made them the biggest economy in Europe and the fourth largest in the world after the United States, China and Japan.

This does not mean that things always run smoothly. As a matter of fact, they are lagging behind on digitalisation, internet banking and a host of other “modern inventions” that the rest of the world takes for granted. This is because Germany is steeped in an unmoveable bureaucracy and a solid belief that doing things the way they are doing them right now, is the right way and the best way. This means that any change that happens takes a long time. An average non-opposed law takes an average of 175 days to get approved.

When will the cannabis legalisation in Germany happen?

Some experts believe early 2024 is the earliest realistic date of legalisation. Lobbyists do not expect the law to change before the fourth quarter of 2024. Finance Minister Christian Lindner had announced an introduction in 2023. Who will be right?

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said he is “certain” that the European Union will approve recreational cannabis legalisation in the country by the end of March. “A formal introduction of the legalisation measure will occur in the first quarter of this year,” Lauterbach said. He “has no reason to doubt this schedule.” (Benzinga)

If Minster Lauterbach’s schedule indeed proves to be accurate then Germany’s lawmakers could be considering a national adult-use legalisation measure by the end of March. Looking at it from a perspective beyond Germany’s borders, if Lauterbach is going to proceed with a formal introduction of a legalisation measures with the EU’s blessing, then that logically means that other nations will presumably be able to do the same.

The pressure on the Minister of Health is growing within the government coalition. The budget politicians responsible for the Ministry of Health want to persuade Lauterbach to implement cannabis legalisation as quickly as possible – using an unusual means: the budget committee has decided that an amount of one million euros will be blocked for the ministry’s public relations work until the cannabis control law agreed in the coalition agreement is presented. That’s what Paula Piechotta, a member of the Greens, told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland Gmbh.

What do other parties and experts say?

In the meantime, the CDU, the main opposition party to the so-called traffic light coalition (and very much against the new proposed cannabis laws) has approached the European Union to ask them to block any cannabis legalisation in Germany as it will clash with EU law. As a member of the European Union, German law is subject to EU law which means that it cannot make a law that clashes with that of the EU. The EU law with regards to cannabis has not changed.

In a surprise victory last weekend, the CDU garnered the most votes in the Berlin Senate elections, sparking a panic. As an avowed anti-cannabis party this will mean that the votes from Berlin that would have helped to pass the legalisation, may now fall by the wayside. Whether they will take control of the Berlin Senate or be neutralised by yet another coalition government remains to be seen.

The legalisation model that Minister Lauterbach presented to the federal cabinet late last year was based on domestic production, home cultivation permitted in adult households and the eventual legalisation of adult-use sales. The Minister’s reasoning appears to be that treaties prevent Germany from importing cannabis for adult-use sales, but that Germany can legalise a domestically supplied adult-use cannabis industry. Until a measure is formally introduced in Germany, there’s always the possibility that components of the measure could evolve. Components that were previously omitted in the October 2022 presentation could come back into the fray, such as THC percentage caps and social use licenses. Other components could be watered down a bit, such as the proposed 30-gram possession limit or the three plant cultivation limit being lowered. This has put a question mark over exactly what model Germany is going for.

In a conversation the EU Observer had with Georg Wurth, the head of the German Hemp Association [Deutscher Hanfverband], he casts doubt on a lot of the predictions. He talks about a possible blockade of the new laws in the Second House which is controlled by the CDU, the opposition from the Police and Customs Unions and problems with the EU that may lead to decriminalisation rather than legalisation. He also gives it a 60% chance of being passed as a law by 2024. Like everybody else, he’s waiting for Minister Lauterbach’s real draft of the law that he promised by the end of March.

And what does the EU say about the state of cannabis legislation in Germany?

The German government has made a presentation to the European Commission for a pre-assessment and will only draft the law once the Commission sanctions the plan. Lauterbach said the legalisation will only go ahead if it is compatible with EU law and that Berlin is committed to “individual changes” to accommodate its policy. So, increasingly it looks like the 2024 deadline will be missed.

In a statement to BusinessCann the Home Affairs Directorate of the European Commission reiterated that personal drug consumption was a matter for nation states. It continued: “A formal notification has not yet been submitted by the German authorities. Therefore, since we have not yet received the formal German request for consultation, we cannot make further comments at this stage. The existing EU law lays down minimum criminal sanctions for illicit drug trafficking and prohibits the cultivation of cannabis.”

Meanwhile in Switzerland

While Germany has some hurdles to overcome, Switzerland has taken a step forward by launching the first of many pilot projects, granting authorized individuals the opportunity to purchase adult-use cannabis legally and safely. This structured strategy lays the scientific groundwork for future legislative decisions, supported by complete transparency and traceability (read more here).

To discover how Switzerland’s pioneering approach could serve as a viable alternative, Cannavigia CEO Luc Richner shares his opinion: “Having taken part in the official hearings of the German health ministry and closely followed the entire process, I wholeheartedly and hopefully support a fast legalisation. Unfortunately, without intending to spread any negativity, a swift outcome seems unlikely. Nevertheless, it is crucial that progress is made in some capacity. If the planned legalisation fails to happen, we must be prepared with a similar system to that of Holland and Switzerland to ensure momentum is not lost. The worst-case scenario would be a standstill, and we must be ready for any eventuality. It is the industry’s responsibility to be prepared to move forward and adapt to whatever the outcome will be.”

No matter which way the winds of legalisation blow, we will keep you informed in our Global CannaVigilance newsletter and on Twitter and LinkedIn.

To learn more about the German industry and the legalisation, read our interview with Dirk Heitepriem and Jürgen Neumeyer from the BvCW, the German Cannabis Business Industry Association, or have a look at our Germany Country Report.

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