What To Know About Germany’s Revised Plan To Legalize Cannabis

April 13, 2023 · Forbes

The German government has finally revealed its long-awaited revised plan to legalize cannabis.

German officials held a press conference yesterday, attended by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach and Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir, where they announced the country’s plan to legalize cannabis.

The revised plan for cannabis in Germany draws on policies and experiments from other European countries with a unique twist.

It seems inspired by the Swiss model for a pilot project for the sale of cannabis products, which will also be starting in the Netherlands.

Malta’s recent legislation for decriminalizing cannabis possession and regulating domestic cultivation may have also influenced the plan.

Additionally, Germany’s plan sets itself apart by establishing cannabis social clubs similar to those in Spain and soon to be implemented in Malta.

This integration of various approaches from other European countries sets the stage for Germany’s unique cannabis policy experiment.

Germany’s proposed legalization is based on two main pillars.

The first pillar of the proposed plan would allow the establishment of non-profit associations, also known as cannabis social clubs, nationwide to grow and consume cannabis for recreational purposes.

German cannabis social clubs are allowed to have a maximum of 500 members. Adults who are 21 years old or older can purchase up to 50 grams of cannabis per month, while for those between 18 and 21, the maximum limit is 30 grams per month. Consumption and alcohol serving are prohibited in cannabis social clubs, as well as on-site consumption.

However, the associations could distribute up to seven seeds or five cuttings per month to each member for their home cultivation.

In fact, adults in Germany are allowed to cultivate and possess cannabis at home. For personal use, they can grow up to three flowering plants. However, the cultivation area must be secured and inaccessible to children and young people.

If minors are caught using cannabis, they are required to participate in intervention and prevention programs. Additionally, individuals who have previous convictions for possession or self-cultivation of up to 25 grams of cannabis or a maximum of three plants can request to have their records expunged from the federal central register.

The second pillar of the planned legalization involves launching a five-year pilot program at the regional level. The aim is to establish a regional and time-limited model that can be used as a reference for other European countries and the EU Commission. This program will allow for a scientific examination of the effects of commercial supply chains on health, youth protection, and the illegal market.

The program will test commercial supply chains in several districts and cities across different federal states. This will cover the production, distribution, and sale of cannabis in specialized shops. The project will be subject to scientific monitoring, limited to five years, and restricted to the residents of the communities involved.

However, German officials noted that this second pillar may still require a review from the EU.

It’s crucial to emphasize that the proposed plan does not entail the total legalization of cannabis. Rather, it only allows the personal consumption of cannabis.

The revised plan differs significantly from the original plan that was announced last year.

In fact, the initial plan aimed to legalize cannabis and establish a market similar to that of US states where cannabis is legal. This market would generate tax revenue for the government, projected to be $5.3 billion annually. Additionally, the plan would create around 27,000 legal jobs in the cannabis industry.

After Health Minister Leuterbach claimed positive feedback from the EU regarding the initial plan, the German government abruptly changed course, stating the need to revise the plan due to potential breaches of international and European legal frameworks.

Therefore, the challenges posed by international and EU regulations, which prohibit the sale of cannabis products, led the German government to adopt a more moderate approach to cannabis legalization.

The German federal government has justified its legalization plans with the aim of curbing the illegal market, thereby enabling better control over the quality of cannabis products and protecting public health and youth.

At first glance, the proposed plan appears to align with these goals. However, several critical points still require clarification when the bill is introduced. These include the announced limit on THC content and the regulations regarding cannabis social clubs.

Furthermore, Germany has had to temporarily abandon the idea of fully legalizing cannabis, which would have generated significant revenue and established the first legal cannabis market in Europe with potential investments from North American cannabis industries.

The ministers have indicated that a bill to implement the proposed plan would be introduced later this month, with the legalization going into effect at some point this year. However, the draft law for the regional commercial sales pilot programs has an unspecified release date and will come at a later time.

By taking this step, Germany is poised to become the second EU member to legalize cannabis for personal use, following in the footsteps of Malta, which did so in late 2021.

It seems that other EU countries considering legalizing cannabis could potentially overcome the legal obstacles posed by EU regulations by adopting the cannabis social club models already established in Spain and soon to be implemented in Malta. Additionally, they could allow domestic cultivation for personal use, as the sale of cannabis products is currently prohibited under international and European legal frameworks. (Full Story)

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