A Controversial Path to Cannabis Legalization in Germany

At OMR23, there were hundreds of speakers from around the world that spoke on stage—several unveiled grand new plans

An Overview for the International Cannabis Community

Germany is at the forefront of one of the most debated policy shifts in recent times. The coalition, known as the Ampelkoalition, intends to legalize cannabis. However, their proposed roadmap has not been without controversy.

Critics Demand Improvements from the Federal Council

The Federal Council of Germany has expressed concerns about the proposed cannabis legislation draft submitted by Health Minister, Karl Lauterbach. Central to the debate are questions about the monitoring and enforcement of the legalization and doubts about the practicality of youth protection regulations.

The Federal Council majority suggests that the current form of the law might lead to “a structural enforcement deficit” in adhering to the rules. The states have demanded the federal government to design the oversight in such a manner that no additional manpower and financial needs arise. The states have also called for:

Traffic accident prevention measures.
Standardized security requirements for cultivation facilities.
Statutory minimum standards for the development of health and youth protection concepts.
Prohibitions on the sale, distribution, and consumption of alcoholic beverages in cultivation cooperatives, or the so-called “Cannabis-Clubs.”
Furthermore, states have also requested a review of the youth protection measures concerning their practicality and feasibility. The proposal also emphasized the need to close potential loopholes in criminal prosecution.

The bill, if approved, intends to remove cannabis from the list of prohibited substances in the Narcotics Act. It will allow adults (18 years and older) to possess up to 25 grams. Private cultivation would be limited to three plants. Within Cannabis-Clubs, members would be allowed to collectively grow and distribute the substance, capped at 50 grams per member monthly. For members aged 18-21, the monthly limit is 30 grams with a maximum THC content of 10%.

The bill is anticipated to come into effect in early 2024. Following the Federal Council’s feedback, the federal government will need to respond and submit the revised draft to the Bundestag (Federal Parliament) for consideration.

Prominent Voices in Opposition

Reiner Haseloff, the Minister-President of Saxony-Anhalt, critiqued the legalization plans, describing the proposed execution as a “complete disaster.” He expressed concerns about the potential rise in consumption, especially among the youth. The practicality of police and justice guidelines has also been questioned.

Other ministers, like Florian Herrmann (CSU), the State Minister for Federal and Media Affairs of Bavaria, warned of a potential “loss of control.” Medical professionals and policy-makers from various domains have cautioned against health risks, especially for young adults.

International Implications: Why Did Lauterbach Alter Initial Plans?

The initial plans for cannabis legalization were contentious from the outset. Doubts persisted on their feasibility and possible breaches of international and EU laws. The Schengen Agreement, for example, binds member states to prevent the unauthorized export of all narcotics, including cannabis products, and to curb their sale and distribution.

Despite receiving positive feedback from the EU Commission earlier in March, Lauterbach had to reconsider the approach. The reason being, a comprehensive legalization might not be feasible in the short term due to European legal constraints. Now, Lauterbach signals a coordinated federal effort, aiming for European backing for Germany’s “progressive cannabis policy.” The focus, according to the Health Minister, should shift from punitive measures to a more preventive approach.

As Germany steers this debate, the international cannabis community watches with keen interest, with the outcome poised to influence cannabis policies globally.

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