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Legalization in Germany: The Global Importance of the New Cannabis Policy

By: Kannabia Seed Company Activism

In mid-August the German government approved a plan to legalize some recreational use of marijuana, paving the way for adults to legally buy and possess small amounts of cannabis. What implications does this measure have in the European and global context of policies related to the plant?

On August 16, members of Germany’s government announced that the nation’s federal cabinet had approved a marijuana legalization bill, which would serve as the first phase of an ongoing cannabis policy modernization effort, spearheaded largely by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach.

This bill would allow adults to purchase and possess up to 25 grams of cannabis for personal consumption through non-profit social clubs. In addition, individuals can grow up to three plants at home for their own consumption. But it still has to be approved by Parliament, so the measure now goes to the Lower House for consideration by the members of the legislative body.

Whatever the Bundestag decides, probably at the end of this year, the support of the cabinet of the tripartite coalition (made up of socialists, greens and liberals) is a crucial step for Germany to become the first major European country to legalize recreational marijuana.

The measure is weaker than what Chancellor Olaf Scholz had initially proposed. The liberal coalition announced its intention to legalize recreational marijuana when it came to power in 2021, and quickly found consensus regarding an issue that Angela Merkel’s government had opposed for years.

Implementation, however, has proved difficult. A version of the plan presented last year by the Government would have allowed the distribution of marijuana through regular stores. This idea was scrapped after encountering resistance from the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm.

Instead, the bill presented this August allows for distribution by creating authorized private cultivation associations comprised of no more than 500 members, which would be allowed to buy up to 25 grams on any given day, but with a limit of 50 grams per month.

The second phase of Germany’s current cannabis policy modernization effort, if it manages to navigate the political maze involved, will involve launching regional cannabis pilot projects, which would allow for the sale of marijuana through a small number of licensed specialty stores in an attempt to gather more information on the effects of allowing people to buy marijuana commercially.

Europe: a brake on Germany’s ambitions

The new version of legalization, based on these two cornerstones (dispensation at social clubs and regional pilot projects featuring commercial supply chains) is a response to the European Commission’s concerns over the German Government’s previous proposal to permit the sale of cannabis at stores.

After submitting a bill in October 2022, the draft was sent to the European Commission for approval and to ensure compatibility with EU and global drug laws. It is clear, however, that the process did not go as planned by the current German Government.

The country is restricted by EU treaties in a way that, for example, Canada was not when it legalized recreational cannabis in 2018. Germany’s hands were tied because it forms part of the Schengen Area countries, which have no border controls.

This is undoubtedly the biggest challenge at the European level: defending the Schengen rules. In the medium term, Germany is also examining the extent to which a sufficient number of EU member countries could launch their own cannabis regulation initiatives to comply with the relevant EU legal framework. What we are going to see now is Germany working much more closely at the EU level to form a coalition of seven or more countries to achieve this.

The importance for the world of Germany’s legalization efforts

Germany is the latest country to scrap cannabis legalization plans, or postpone or present significantly diluted ones, after originally promising full-scale legalization. Israel, Mexico and New Zealand, for example, have revealed ambitions to legalize and regulate cannabis for adults in recent years, only to see those plans founder, for various reasons. These policy shifts offer an important lesson to countries on the importance of acting strategically, and not reflexively.

Germany is striving to modernize its cannabis policies and defend a marijuana industry for its population of more than 83 million people. By comparison, the combined population of the four current nations where it is legal (Uruguay, Canada, Malta, and Luxembourg) is only about half of Germany’s.

A recent study by the Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE) found that  comprehensive legalization would garner the country some 4.7 billion euros a year through taxes, fees and savings from abandoning its failed cannabis prohibition policy. This is important and clearly worth fighting for, as is preventing draconian public policies from needlessly ruining lives.

Germany, however, shares borders with more countries than any other nation in Europe, and all of them currently ban the recreational use of cannabis. It is understandable that the effort to change Germany’s cannabis policy is taking longer, given how difficult it is to devise a common legal framework in cooperation with the countries around it, which is also why Germany’s legalization drive will prove more significant than that of its predecessors.

And, when legalization becomes a reality in Germany (inevitable) and succeeds (also inevitable), other nations are bound to follow suit. This, in turn, will result in cannabis policies being modernized globally on a much larger scale than they are now.

There is no doubt that Germany’s legalization process has been frustrating thus far, but 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.

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