As Germany stands on the brink of a significant policy shift with its planned cannabis legalization, CEOs and business developers in the European cannabis market must pay close attention to the evolving discussions and expert opinions. This evening, a public hearing in the Health Committee of the Parliament will feature a range of experts, whose preliminary statements have been made available by dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH. This event marks a critical juncture in the ongoing debate about the future of cannabis in Germany.
Additionally, a crucial aspect of the current discourse is the call to abolish the existing approval reservation (“Genehmigungsvorbehalt”). The current implementation results in high rejection rates of approximately 30 to 40 percent of applications. Consequently, many patients are forced to self-finance their cannabis therapy, as highlighted in the research by Grotenhermen and Müller-Vahl (2022). This underscores the need for a more accessible and equitable approach to cannabis-based medical treatments in Germany.
Diverse Expert Opinions:
Healthcare Concerns: The German Medical Association warns of potential mental health risks, especially for young people, and predicts an increase in cannabis use.
Legal and Judicial Challenges: The German Association of Judges and the police union express significant reservations, foreseeing increased regulatory burdens and enforcement challenges.
Economic and Social Impact: Proponents, including the New Association of Judges and the German Bar Association, argue that decriminalization aligns with societal realities and could relieve the legal system.
Statements were made available to dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH in advance.
Advocates Argue for Decriminalization and “Reality” While there are voices of opposition within the association landscape, supporters bring compelling arguments to the table. The New Association of Judges, a reform-oriented group of judges and prosecutors, states, “The criminalization of cannabis possession for personal use is no longer justifiable.” Despite efforts to prohibit it, cannabis consumption remains widespread. The German Bar Association openly welcomes the legalization of cannabis, seeing it as a relief to the criminal justice system. The Centre for Interdisciplinary Addiction Research of the University of Hamburg notes that the law primarily acknowledges “social realities.” In 2021, about one in ten people aged 18 to 59 consumed cannabis at least once a year.
Mustafa Temmuz Oglakcioglu, a criminal law professor invited by the SPD, counters the Association of Judges’ doubts about the alleviation of burdens on authorities. “The sheer number of over 180,000 (!) cannabis-related procedures per year obviously ties up significant resources,” he writes in his statement.
Critics Seem Open to Compromise The line between pro and contra is fluid. The German Society for Addiction Medicine positively views the “approaches to decriminalizing consumers” in the law. However, the association also warns that legalization might lead to a significant increase in cases of intoxications or psychosis due to intoxication.
The Federal Chamber of Psychotherapists points out the risks of drug consumption under the age of 25 due to ongoing brain development. Yet, they describe the age limit of 18 years and the stipulation that cannabis clubs should only distribute less potent cannabis to those under 21 as a “good compromise (…) between a reasonable health risk for the not yet fully matured brain and the prevention of cannabis use being concealed or stigmatized for too long from the average starting age of about 15 years.”
Implications for the Cannabis Industry:
Regulatory Scrutiny: Expect stringent regulations around cannabis clubs, cultivation, and distribution, demanding careful compliance strategies.
Health and Safety Standards: Prepare for heightened focus on health implications, especially for consumers under 25, impacting product development and marketing.
Market Dynamics: Anticipate shifts in consumer behavior post-legalization, including potential increases in usage and changes in purchasing preferences.
Public Perception and Education: Engage in public education efforts to navigate societal concerns and contribute to informed public discourse.
Market Entry and Expansion: Evaluate opportunities for establishing or expanding operations in Germany, considering the complex regulatory and social landscape.
Partnerships and Collaborations: Seek partnerships with local entities and health organizations to align with national standards and gain market insights.
Innovation and Product Development: Innovate responsibly, focusing on product safety and consumer education, especially for younger demographics.
Next Steps and Outlook: The final decision by the Bundestag is expected by the end of November, with no Bundesrat approval needed. While the timeline targets early 2024 for legalization, industry leaders should remain adaptable to potential shifts in the legislative process and public opinion.
Conclusion: Germany’s move towards cannabis legalization represents a significant milestone in the European cannabis market. As leaders in this sector, staying informed and agile in response to the evolving regulatory and social landscape will be crucial for capitalizing on emerging opportunities and navigating potential challenges.