By Luke Sumpter

If you live in Germany, chances are you’re pretty excited right now. The government is positioned to enact big changes in cannabis policy. These legislative shifts aim to establish cannabis social clubs, allow home cultivation, and develop a new thriving agricultural sector.

Over the last few decades, Germany has ranked as one of the most progressive countries in the European Union when it comes to cannabis. Keeping with this pattern, the nation’s government whipped up a green frenzy with an initial plan[1] to legalize recreational cannabis for adults in early 2023. Spearheaded by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, this shift in legislation aimed to make marijuana accessible to adults nationwide from shops and pharmacies.

However, the German government soon ran into supranational hurdles written into law by the European Union; the political behemoth forbids the legalization of recreational cannabis. With that said, Germany has opted to revise its ambitious policy, formulating a promising two-stage plan that still permits the possession and cultivation of the herb.

Germany and the EU
The European Union has pushed back against the german plan.

German Government Waters Down High Hopes

While the initial upheaval of cannabis laws was unsuccessful, German ministers have cooked up a backup plan designed to better comply with the European Commission. While still quite liberal, German ministers hope that this plan will manage to circumvent EU framework decisions[2] that require member states to clamp down on the sale of drugs. Considering countries such as Malta have managed to pull off recreational weed legalization, Germany stands a fighting chance.

So, what exactly does the watered-down version of the original proposal look like? Phase one will involve limited access to legal weed in cannabis social clubs like those seen in Spain. Each club will have a limit of 500 members, and all must have German citizenship. Members aged 21 and over will have the right to legally purchase up to 25g of cannabis per day, and up to 50g per month. Citizens aged 18–21 will have access to only 30g of herb per month.

Although a big push forward, future German clubs will operate slightly differently than those found in sunny Spanish cities such as Barcelona. The biggest distinction? German patrons can’t legally sit back, sip a coffee, and spark up a joint inside; German clubs will serve as points of purchase, not smoking lounges. The timeline remains unclear at this point, but Lauterbach has stated that citizens will have access to social clubs by the end of 2023.

Restrictions will also stand in certain public places; cannabis consumers won’t be allowed to smoke near schools or day centres or in pedestrian areas until 8pm.

Adding to the emerging cannabis club model, adults in the country will have the right to grow up to three female plants at once for recreational purposes.

Karl Lauterbach
Karl Lauterbach leads the proposed german cannabis reform.

Phase two will unfold over a period of five years and involves granting a handful of cities the ability to licence specialist shops to sell recreational marijuana. So far, the locations and commencing dates remain unknown and unnamed, with Lauterbach planning to clarify a timeline during the government summer recess.

A key aspect of the second phase, according to Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir, involves establishing supply chains within Germany that will eventually scale up to provide cannabis to budding establishments.

Despite the shift from near-imminent and widespread legalization to a more regulated and regimented approach, Germany still appears poised to emerge as a nation with one of the most liberal cannabis policies in European history.

Right now, German citizens shouldn’t get too excited or get carried away. Mere possession of cannabis and hash remains illegal[3] in the country and violates the Narcotics Law. With all this set to change by the end of the year, citizens need to wait for legislative change to take effect before using cannabis in public and growing plants at home.

Cannabis Legalization Bill Announced in 2022

The derailment of Germany’s sovereign policymaking might seem sudden and shocking to some, but politicians knew they’d face such a possibility straight out of the gate. Lauterbach introduced a detailed plan in October 2022 that served as a guideline for lawmakers to use to draft a bill. Knowing that they’d have to deal with EU approval regardless, the coalition government included the following details[4] in their desired policy changes:

  • Possession: The original guidelines suggested that all adults aged 18 and over could possess up to 30g of cannabis for personal use, regardless of THC content, in private and public places.
  • Cultivation: The government would regulate the sale of seeds, and citizens could grow up to three female plants at home, considering they are secured from children.
  • Supply: Germany would regulate its own cannabis supply chain in the interests of quality control and stamping out the black market. The country would seek to develop a new thriving agricultural sector and rule out the option of importing marijuana from abroad.
  • Marketing: Products would feature neutral packaging that states THC and CBD content.
  • Taxation: Cannabis products would feature VAT that correlates to THC content.
  • International declaration: Knowing the obstacles laid down by the EU commission, the German government crafted a declaration attempting to prove that legalization would reduce harm regarding youth protection and drug trafficking.

Germany Cannabis Supply
German cannabis clubs could look more like a state-controlled dispensary, rather than a recreational space.

German Weed Legalization: Important Moments in 2019

Many of Germany’s recent policy changes stem from legalization efforts back in 2019. Then, the government started to loosen numerous restrictions, and several politicians started calling for reform. While some pushed for decriminalisation, others started a movement backing legal recreational weed. One year later, in 2020, the government gave pharmacies the green light to start dispensing medical marijuana.

Weed in Germany became more accessible to citizens back in 2016 when the government gave doctors the ability to prescribe medical cannabis[5] to patients with certain conditions. The law enabled patients with multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, and cancer to obtain cannabis to manage their symptoms. 

Germany Became One of the First Countries to Legalize Medical Cannabis in 2007

German weed legalization first occurred in its primitive form way back in 2007. While far from sweeping reform, the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices made the groundbreaking step of approving the use of cannabis for medical purposes. This made the nation one of the first in Europe to legalize medical cannabis and set the stage for future progressive policies.

Weed in Germany: Decriminalisation Started in 1994

When looking at Germany’s past, progressive cannabis reform doesn't stop at the new millennium. In an era of harsh cannabis laws across the world, the nation's highest court decriminalised[6] the possession of small quantities of hash and marijuana in 1994. This order granted citizens the ability to possess up to 6g of either substance; getting caught would result in a mere fine instead of imprisonment. This marked the beginning of the end of cannabis prohibition in Germany, which dawned in 1929.

420 Berlin
Berlin's 2022 4/20 March

Germany: The Future Looks Green

Several politicians of the coalition party in Germany are driving cannabis policy forward. Despite EU roadblocks, they’re taking a pragmatic approach with the ambition to serve as a model for the rest of Europe. Regardless of recent pitfalls, these elected officials have still managed to outline a plan that sees cannabis social clubs, legalized possession for recreational use, and home cultivation on the horizon.

Motivation for this policy change has partly arisen from certain ministers recognising the failures of previous laws. Federal Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann, an advocate of marijuana reform, stated: “The prohibition of cannabis criminalizes countless people, pushes them into criminal structures and ties up immense resources at law enforcement agencies”.

Agriculture Minister Özdemir has also weighed in on the nonsensical policies of the past, adding: “The use of cannabis is a social reality. A decades-long prohibition policy has turned a blind eye to this and thus caused problems above all: to the detriment of our children and young people, the health of users and law enforcement agencies”.

German politicians are approaching new cannabis legislation from multiple angles, emphasising how prohibition has sucked resources from the police and also enabled a black market that provides access to young citizens to thrive. With huge changes due in 2023, Germany will likely serve as a model of success for the rest of Europe and beyond.

External Resources:
  1. Germany To Introduce Bill To Legalize Cannabis In The Coming Weeks
  2. Germany scales back plans to allow cannabis sale in shops and pharmacies | Germany | The Guardian
  4. Germany Reveals How It Wants To Legalize Cannabis
  6. German Court Legalizes Soft Drugs | Prison Legal News
This content is for educational purposes only. The information provided is derived from research gathered from external sources.

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