Starting Monday (today – 01.07.24), so-called cannabis clubs in Germany will legally be allowed to sell cannabis. However, it will be some time before these associations are fully operational.

Germany legalized cannabis in April, permitting adults to possess up to 25 grams (0.9 ounces) and cultivate up to three marijuana plants at home. The next phase of this reform, effective July 1, will enable regulated “cannabis clubs” to legally distribute cannabis.

Each cannabis club can have up to 500 members and distribute up to 50 grams of cannabis per person per month. An umbrella organization, Mariana Cannabis, which represents about 180 future cannabis clubs across Germany, has already garnered around 20,000 members. However, at their production site in Leverkusen, near Cologne, there are no seeds or cuttings in sight.

This delay is due to the necessity for clubs to obtain a license, a process that can take up to three months. “We are impatient, but we still have to wait,” said Keno Mennenga, a spokesperson for Mariana Cannabis, in an interview with AFP.

Black Market Concerns​

In Munich, members of the Cantura cannabis club have been paying 25 euros ($27) monthly since March, even before the law’s initial phase took effect. The club has invested thousands of euros in office space, security, and cultivation equipment, according to its CEO, Fabian Baumann. “We need around eight weeks from cutting to harvesting,” he said. “If everything goes well, we’ll be able to supply cannabis to our members this year. That would be wonderful.”

When introducing the first phase of the law in April, the German government emphasized it was not promoting cannabis use but aiming to curb the black market. “The German model is based on a gradual approach. The idea is to be cautious and to evaluate in real time,” said Ivana Obradovic, an expert with the France-based Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT). She noted that the model had integrated lessons from various systems tested worldwide.

“The idea is to keep control of supply so that it doesn’t prosper rapidly,” Obradovic added. She cited the United States, where cannabis legalization in many states has led to “a situation of overproduction, particularly in California and Oregon, where production exceeds local demand by five to six times.”

Despite initial challenges, countries that have legalized cannabis have generally seen a decline in black market sales. In Canada, approximately 75 percent of cannabis users now purchase through legal channels, compared to just 40 percent in 2018, the year the drug was legalized, according to the OFDT.

Mennenga acknowledged the black market’s dominance in Germany, stating, “The black market is in control and it’s getting worse.” However, he expressed optimism that legalization could prevent further deterioration.

Political Uncertainties​

Bluetezeit, a Berlin-based start-up specializing in cannabis products, hopes Germany will eventually permit the sale of cannabis in pharmacies or licensed shops. Nikolaos Katsaras, the company’s head, believes only a competitive legal market can challenge the well-established black market.

In the interim, Bluetezeit has built an online community of 10,000 members and plans to develop cannabis clubs while selling cannabis products online and offering consultations for medical cannabis use.

Katsaras aims to “take the pulse of the market” to determine the company’s direction. His main concern is the upcoming general election in Germany in 2025, which could alter the industry’s trajectory. Friedrich Merz, leader of the Christian Democrats (CDU), the main opposition party, has vowed to annul cannabis legalization if his party returns to power.