Although Germany’s coalition government rarely agreed on an issue as much as on the legalization of cannabis, top German politicians are behind schedule in its implementation. Lawyer Peter Homberg sheds light on the reasons and desired changes to the law.
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Federal Council’s Opinion on the CanG Draft Legislation and its Consequences: On September 29, 2023, the Federal Council provided its initial feedback on the federal government’s plans to legalize cannabis. The draft of the new Cannabis Act (“CanG”) proposes removing cannabis from the Narcotics Act. It would permit adults to possess up to 25 grams and allow private cultivation of up to three plants. Collective non-commercial cultivation is to be enabled through cultivation associations, which would also oversee the controlled distribution of cannabis.
While the Federal Council has called for revisions in some areas, they did not entirely reject the proposal, despite opposition from some state representatives and critics. The council did not support the requirement that the CanG needs their consent. Designating the CanG as merely an objectionable law means the Federal Council couldn’t independently block the legislative initiative.
The council’s critiques mainly concern the regulatory and enforcement tasks of the states. They demand these be structured in a way that doesn’t increase staff and financial needs. Other areas highlighted for improvement include traffic accident prevention, closing criminal liability gaps, setting standards for securing cultivation facilities, and mandatory minimum standards for health and youth protection concepts. Especially, the regulations concerning youth protection need to be examined for practicality and feasibility.
About the Expert: Peter Homberg is a partner at the international law firm “Dentons”, Dentons European Cannabis Group, and a founding member of the European Cannabis Association. For decades, he has practiced in medical and pharmaceutical law, specializing in medicinal cannabis law since 2017.
What’s Next in the Legislative Process? The legislative process is still in its early stages. The Federal Council’s feedback has been submitted to the Bundestag (Federal Parliament). The CanG will undergo three readings there, after which the Federal Council will give its opinion again. The first reading in the Bundestag was originally scheduled for October 13, 2023, but this, as well as a committee hearing planned for October 18, 2023, was postponed.
Why Was the First Reading in the Bundestag Postponed? Recent developments in the Israel/Palestine conflict necessitated swift changes to the previously planned session sequence. Due to a governmental statement by the Chancellor followed by a debate, the topic of cannabis legalization was temporarily set aside. The legalization issue was likely chosen for postponement because it divides political parties, especially considering the counter-motion by the Union faction, and there was a desire to avoid heated debates amidst current global political events.
Is the Implementation of the CanG by January 1, 2024 Still Feasible? The revised schedule is: first reading in the Bundestag in week 42, a committee hearing on health on November 6, 2023, and the second and third readings on November 16, 2023. In theory, the legalization could still be achieved by the start of 2024, but any further delays make this less likely. It’s important to note that the Federal Council will subsequently have several weeks to provide feedback and could potentially raise objections, which would significantly delay the entire process.