We heard it was coming several months ago, but no one knew what to expect. Germany made it clear this past year that it plans to institute a recreational marijuana market, and recently released its first blueprints for the upcoming industry. Read on to find out what Germany has planned for legal weed, thus far.
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Germany’s decision to legalize cannabis
Germany isn’t the first EU country to decide on cannabis legalization for recreational use. Malta did it first in December of 2021, implementing a system whereby users can grow cannabis and use it, but without a sales market. Luxembourg also announced plans to set up something in the future, with a generally similar model of allowing cultivation without a sales market; but as of yet, no law passed.
Really, though, if looking at the whole of Europe, the first legalization actually belongs to Georgia of all countries. Georgia passed a legalization by way of its constitutional court in 2018. Much like Malta, it doesn’t include a sales market, or even legal cultivation; making for a pretty strange legalization that only allows possession and use, with no legal way to obtain it.
Then Switzerland upped the ante, when its office of Social Security and Health Commission announced in September, 2021, that cannabis shouldn’t be a prohibited drug anymore. Nothing more was stated at the time about what a corresponding market might look like, but one is expected to open. Switzerland was the first country in the EU, and Europe as a whole, to make this decision. We don’t know when to expect the official bill or full market, though.
Enter Germany. In April of this year, an announcement was made in Germany via Marco Buschmann, the Justice Minister, who stated he and the Ministry of Health were discussing and figuring out a cannabis legalization measure. Currently Germany is the home of the biggest cannabis market in the EU, though its all medical. The current process which would greatly expand this market, involves talks between different government offices, with an expected bill later this year.
This announcement was accompanied by another announcement on the same day by Christian Lindner, the finance manager. He said that Germany was indeed in the process of figuring out some kind of legalization, and that cannabis would be legal soon enough.
These announcements weren’t the start of it though. Germany held elections last year which greatly changed the political landscape, affecting the ability for recreational marijuana. Especially since long-standing Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is opposed to legalization, did not run for re-election.
The resulting ruling coalition is now made up of the Social Democrats (SPD), Green Party, and Free Democrats (FDP), all of which are pro-cannabis legalization parties. This is worlds away from Merkel’s previous government which was right-winged and generally against cannabis reform. In November 2021 the new leadership stated it was already in the process of creating a bill.
Germany and a new recreational marijuana plan
As of right now, only key points were released on the new Germany recreational marijuana reform measures. According to Politico, these reforms were made available Wednesday the 19th of October to the RND newspaper group, Germany’s editorial network. The document contains the following provisions, though none of this is in final form, or approved. First off, the new law would mean cannabis wouldn’t be classified as a narcotic drug anymore.
In terms of regulations, it sets the age for use at 18, and would allow users to purchase and possess up to 20 grams of cannabis. Technically, it wouldn’t matter where the cannabis came from, or the amount of THC in it, so long as it doesn’t cross the limit of 15%, which would be the cap for legal purchases and growing. The reforms also call for the allowance of two home-cultivated plants.
Then it goes on to make a strange designation, saying that those between the ages of 18-21, can only access products with up to 10% THC maximum, apparently to ward off brain damage. Its hard to say where this idea of possible brain damage comes from, or how much its believed to be a real issue, especially given the context of it coming up as part of a broad legalization measure. Regardless, that’s a part of the current draft key points.
Apparently, those under 18 caught with cannabis, wouldn’t be subject to any formal punishment. However, youth welfare offices would be able to force these young users into prevention courses. And, of course, whatever an under-ager has on them, would be confiscated.
The draft rules speak of regulation for dispensaries, and minimum distances between such businesses and schools or other youth facilities. Selling cannabis would predictably require a license, with unlicensed sales considered criminal activity. Strangely, (or not), it dictates that synthetic cannabinoids would be illegal, but like most countries, chooses not to explain how this wouldn’t rule out its cannabis pharmaceutical market, which offers synthetics like dronabinol and nabilone.
Any advertising of cannabis products would be banned. It states, “Recreational cannabis is sold in outer packaging (plain packaging) with no promotional design,” and that there can be no “advertising purchase suggestions” in stores or online. Sales might be expanded past dispensaries, and might also be allowable in pharmacies. The pharmacy idea is under examination, as well as online purchasing, both of which are thought to be useful for limiting the black market. According to the document:
“On the other hand, the suppression of the black market would probably be greater if recreational cannabis could also be purchased online, which is convenient and increasingly important.” It goes on to say that the idea of specialty shops with options for consumption, are also under investigation.
More details…like taxes and pricing
All cannabis products would have a sales tax, as well as a likely cannabis tax. Nothing more specific about the amount was stated, other than that is should be assessed based on the amount of THC in a product. It does make a good stipulation, in that it says the total price including taxes, should be very close to the black market price.
The document also touches on where the cannabis in the industry must come from. Right now, Germany is both a large producer and a large exporter for medical cannabis products. Since global laws are not as up-to-date, a recreational market couldn’t allow imports, leading to a requirement for Germany to grow all the cannabis for this market. The document says:
“According to a preliminary assessment, international trade in cannabis for recreational purposes is not possible on the basis of or in accordance with international framework conditions.” And that “According to this preliminary assessment, national demand would have to be covered by German production.”
It was requested that the Federal Ministry of Health confirm this document of key points, which it did not do. The Ministry pointed to the federal government still debating and voting, meaning this report is still quite likely to undergo revisions. Several departments are working on it together, including health, justice, economy, nutrition, and the Federal Foreign Office. A full draft law is still hoped for by the end of this year.
Germany is solidly on the way to recreational marijuana, with this document of key points giving an indication of where the government is going. It might not be a done deal yet, but the trajectory is pretty clear, and it can be pretty well expected that Germany will have a recreational market in the very near future.
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