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German Legislature in Agreement on New Cannabis Bill

German government ready to vote on revised cannabis bill
Written by Sarah Friedman

The German government is ready to vote on a revised cannabis legalization bill; which would allow possession, use, and social clubs

The German legislature has been trying to finalize a new cannabis legalization bill; in light of EU rejection of its original plan. Here’s info on the revised legislation to be voted on next week.

German cannabis bill

Though we don’t have a formal text to go over yet, we do know some of the updates the German government made to the recreational cannabis bill it’s trying to pass. Germany was set back from its original plan of a full legalization, complete with sales market; when the EU rejected that plan. Since that time, the country has been trying to put together a regulatory framework for cannabis legalization, with the inclusion of social clubs.

The coalition in power, dubbed the Traffic Light Coalition, supports the current rewrite. A previous version was not supported enough last week; and a vote in Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, was postponed. A vote is now scheduled for next week. This would not be the last stop for the bill, however; it would only mean passing the Bundestag, which is the federal parliament of elected officials. The Bundestag works in tandem with the Bundesrat; which consists of representation of political parties based on their sizes, which is not voted-in by the general public.

Technically it is the former, not the latter, which is responsible for voting in the law. But the Bundesrat has the ability to block laws from passing in the Bundestag. It’s expected to take months after a vote in the Bundestag, for the matter to be assessed fully by the Bundesrat.

Bundesrat will go over German cannabis bill as well
Bundesrat will go over German cannabis bill as well

According to Marijuana Moment, Kirsten Kappert-Gonther, a member of the Green Party, which is a part of the Traffic Light Coalition, had this to say about the revised version: “In the negotiations, we managed to find practical regulations that guarantee the protection of young people and health and make the decriminalization of adult consumers a reality.”

Revisions to German cannabis bill

One of the changes, is to set two possession allowance amounts. The first is the standard legal limit of 25 grams. The second is a secondary limit of 30. Those caught with between 25-30 would not face jail time, and it would instead be considered an administrative violation. Anything over 30 would involve jail time, and be a criminal offense.

Another change relates to public consumption. The bill does not rule out public consumption, like most US laws do. The revised version changes guidelines for public use, with anything in eyesight to a school (within 100 meters), not being permitted. This is actually a lessened requirement, as the original limit, was 200 meters.

Further to this, the legal possession limit for home grown weed was increased, and would allow individuals to possess a greater amount. Rather than the original 25 grams, the new limit is 50 grams. There is also a second limit here of 60 grams, which functions the same way as the second limit on regular possession laws. Up to 50 is legal, 50-60 is an administrative offense, and more than 60 is criminal.

So far, these are all measures that were made less restrictive. However, the legislature did agree in one place to make heavier penalties. This relates to sales to underage users. In pretty much every country with a cannabis legalization, there are always very steep penalties for sales to minors. In the case of Germany, this accounts for those below 18.

Another revision is related to the implementation of the provisions of the new law. The revised version has a staggered implementation that starts with possession and cultivation; both of which would become legal in April of 2024. The social clubs would start a few months later in July. As of yet, there is nothing further on the pilot program, which would involve some amount of legal limited sales that take place in a research capacity.

Pilot studies allow legal limited cannabis sales
Pilot studies allow legal limited cannabis sales

What about the pilot program and social clubs?

Cannabis pilot programs are designed as research experiments that investigate some aspect of a recreational sales market. They provide a form of direct sales. Direct sales differ from social club dissemination, in that direct sales require something to be paid for directly. Social clubs are systems in which a person joins an establishment, and is then able to obtain a certain amount of weed monthly; based on the governing laws of the club, and a country (if they exist), and the amount a person pays for membership.

Since the person pays for the membership, and not directly for the product, social clubs create a loophole to standard sales laws. They are sometimes seen in places, like Spain, where no recreational legalization exists. As Germany is a member state within the EU, it doesn’t get to decide whether a direct sales market is legal; and the EU nixed earlier plans for one. The general legalization and social clubs both fall within German law to initiate, and don’t require EU approval. The pilot program, as a vehicle for direct sales, requires a sign off by the European Commission.

Work on developing the pilot program is earmarked for after the current general legalization bill passes. It is considered the second pillar of the overall German cannabis legalization model. Though it had originally been expected that work would already be underway on that measure by this point; it has been held up by the hold up on the general legalization bill.

Where else do we see legalization laws in Europe?

The German initiative does not make it the first European country to introduce a recreational cannabis bill. In fact, Malta was the first country of the EU to formally make the decision to legalize. It did so in 2021, although its system of ‘associations,’ (technically, ‘cannabis harm reduction associations’), are still in the setting-up process. Malta did not attempt a sales market. Along with the associations, it allows limited possession of seven grams, and a maximum storage amount at home, of 50 grams.

Accordingly, an association can only dispense up to seven grams to a person in a day, as it can’t give out more than the possession limit. These associations are not meant for social smoking, and are only a means of supplying the weed. Residents can only sign up to one association, and they’ll pay for the weed via a membership fee. As of this moment, no association is up and running, but operational licenses have been awarded; meaning those who got a license, are now in the process of growing the weed that will be given out.

Luxembourg also legalized cannabis in July of this year. Its law is even more restrictive than Malta’s; and only allows for cultivation and limited possession. No social clubs this time around. The law allows for four plants per household, but only three grams for possession outside of a personal residence. This indicates the government very much wants for the plant and its use, to remain behind closed doors. Neither Luxembourg nor Malta, have any provision for a commercial market.

Luxembourg was the second EU country to legalize cannabis
Luxembourg was the second EU country to legalize cannabis

Switzerland, which is in Europe, but not a part of the EU; also announced an intention to legalize. Switzerland doesn’t have to bow to EU law, and already instituted its own law to allow varied pilot programs throughout the country. Several have started up, or are already approved and getting ready to go.

Any talk of European countries to legalize cannabis is not complete without a mention to Georgia. This European/former Eastern Bloc country legalized cannabis use and possession via a Supreme Court ruling on July 30th, 2018. This technically made it the second country to legalize; as Canada’s law didn’t go into effect until September of that year. However, Georgia never wrote laws to go with this, and maintains an uncomfortable system where possession and use are legalized; but cultivation, and sales, remain illegal.

Other European countries are also looking to get into legal recreational weed. Like the Czech Republic, which has indicated interest in a full sales market; but has kept any planning on the down-low. It likely doesn’t want the same situation as Germany. The Netherlands is also hoping to change its already existent model of gray market sales, into an actual above-board legal market; which for now, would be via pilot programs. These are a couple examples, but with weed fever fully spreading through Europe; we can expect more countries to introduce policies in the next few years.

Conclusion

It’s certainly been a bit of an anti-climactic experience with Germany. And there are still many more months to wait, apparently (and at best); before anything is actually passed into law.

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About the author

Sarah Friedman

I look stuff up and and write stuff down, in order to make sense of the world around. And I travel a lot too.