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When Will Germany Legalize Cannabis?

The German federal government appears to have agreed to a proposed multi-phase legalization plan that would allow adults to privately cultivate cannabis in limited quantities and/or via non-profit clubs. Eventually, consumers will also be able to obtain cannabis from licensed specialist shops as part of regional cannabis pilot programs.

The goal of the local pilot projects is to ‘examine the effects of a commercial supply chain on health and youth protection, as well as the unregulated market, in more detail.’ Furthermore, the pilot projects aim to ‘control quality, prevent contaminated substances, protect minors and consumers, and reduce the unregulated market.’ The proposal comes after months of German lawmakers pushing for legalization and the nation’s Health Minister lobbying the European Union.

Germany’s Health Minister has made the argument that cannabis prohibition harms citizens, and that unregulated product consumption has resulted in health hazards and contamination from unregulated product consumption. The government is expected to present a draft law based on the key issues paper this month.

“Cannabis is a common stimulant. It is often offered and used illegally in Germany. This is often a health hazard. Adolescents in particular are impaired in their social and cognitive development by cannabis. Despite this, more and more young people are using the drug. The black market goods are often contaminated and create additional health hazards. We can no longer accept this. That’s why we dare the controlled sale of cannabis to adults within clear limits and push back the black market, flanked by preventive measures for young people. Health protection is the priority. The previous cannabis policy has failed. Now we have to break new ground.” said Federal Health Minister Prof. Karl Lauterbach.

“The previous restrictive handling of cannabis in Germany has failed. Banning cannabis criminalizes countless people, pushing them into criminal structures and tying up immense resources from law enforcement agencies. It’s time for a new approach that allows more personal responsibility, pushes back the black market and relieves the police and public prosecutor’s offices. We trust people more – without downplaying the dangers that can emanate from cannabis consumption.” said Federal Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann.

“The use of cannabis is a social reality. Decades of prohibition policies have turned a blind eye to this and, above all, caused problems: at the expense of our children and young people, the health of consumers and the law enforcement authorities. Now we are creating a coherent and pragmatic cannabis policy from a single source, from cultivation to consumption. Nobody should have to buy from dealers without knowing what they are getting. Through controlled cultivation and distribution within the framework of cannabis clubs, we strengthen youth and health protection. And: We cut the ground for organized crime, which does not even shy away from selling it to children. With a regional model project, we are also exploring the possibilities of a commercial supply chain.” said Federal Minister of Agriculture Cem Özdemirsays.

Below are more details about the legalization plan via a government press release:

The cornerstones of the 2-pillar model (“ C lub A nbau & Regional -Modell/ CARe ”) have been developed by the Federal Ministry of Health as the leader, as well as the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the Federal Ministry of Justice, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, the Federal Ministry of Economics and the Federal Foreign Office according to the technical responsibilities. The EU and international law limits were taken into account. On the basis of the key issues paper, the federal government will now present a draft law at short notice.

The 2-column model in detail

1st pillar: Private & community, non-profit-oriented self-cultivation

  • Under narrow, clearly defined legal frameworks, not-for-profit associations may jointly cultivate cannabis for recreational purposes and sell it to members for their own consumption. The members should be as active as possible in the association. The participation of employees of the associations in the cultivation is permitted, however, commissioning third parties with the cultivation is excluded.
  • The framework conditions for handling are regulated in a separate law.
  • In addition to the harvested recreational cannabis, members may also be given seeds and cuttings produced by the association for their own cultivation. It is being examined whether and how seeds and/or cuttings for private cultivation may be obtained from the associations at cost price without membership in an association being a prerequisite for this.
  • Approval and monitoring are carried out by state authorities, including with regard to compliance with quantity, quality and youth protection specifications and with spot checks and on-site visits. Personal data collected by the associations in connection with the sale of recreational cannabis, seeds and cuttings to members may not be passed on to unauthorized third parties or used for other purposes. Membership in more than one association is prohibited.
  • fines, withdrawal of license or Fines/imprisonment for multiple violations are possible.
  • Cultivation and harvest quantities are geared to covering needs. There are reporting and documentation requirements for the quantities produced and delivered. There is a ban on the import or export of recreational cannabis.
  • Membership fees cover the cost price, staggered according to the quantity supplied ( possibly with a basic flat rate and an additional amount per gram supplied).
  • The number of members per association is limited to a maximum of 500 with a minimum age of 18 years and domicile or habitual abode in Germany. The number of associations can be limited by population density.
  • The association can only be managed by natural persons whose reliability has been checked. The association is managed according to the principles of association law. Personal liability on the part of the association’s board of directors in the event of financial loss or the violation of official requirements should only occur in the event of intent or gross negligence.
  • The procurement of seeds for the (first) cultivation in the associations is made possible. The possibility of importing seeds from third countries is being examined.
  • The distribution of the harvested cannabis (flowers) is only permitted to members; no disclosure to third parties; max. 25g cannabis per day, max. 50g per month, max. 7 seeds or 5 cuttings per month. The supply to adolescents under the age of 21 is limited to an amount of 30g per month, in addition to a limit on the permissible THC content (limit to be clarified). This should be reflected in the variety selection.
  • It is being examined whether and how seeds and cuttings can be exchanged free of charge between associations for quality assurance purposes.
  • Quality requirements apply to community cultivation (in particular a ban on additives or admixtures such as tobacco or aromas, requirements for pesticides, no synthetic cannabinoids).
  • Delivery is only in pure form (flowers or resin) in neutral packaging or loose with attached information about the product (variety, including its usual average THC content and content of other cannabinoids such as CBD), dosage and application as well as the risks of consumption and advice centers.
  • Consumption on the association’s premises is prohibited, as is public consumption near schools, day-care centers or similar , and in pedestrian zones until 8 p.m.
  • At the same time, there is a ban on the sale of alcohol, tobacco or other stimulants and intoxicants.
  • Access is only permitted to adults with strict age control requirements.
  • Conditions for youth protection and prevention apply: youth protection, addiction and prevention officers to be appointed by the association have proven expertise; there is an obligatory cooperation with the local addiction prevention or – advice center and a minimum distance to schools, day care centers or similar.
  • There is a general ban on advertising for the associations and for cannabis. Factual information is acceptable.
  • Minimum protective measures ( e.g. burglar-proof premises, fencing) prevent access by unauthorized third parties.
  • Penalty-free possession (carrying in public) is possible for personal consumption up to 25g; there are penal provisions for possession in excess of this, for trading and sale to non-members as well as children and young people as well as for the sale of cannabis not grown in the associations themselves.
  • The limit values ​​in road, ship and air traffic are checked with the involvement of the relevant specialist committees. Regulations on the admissibility of driving under the influence of cannabis are based exclusively on the requirements of road safety.
  • The non-punishment private self-cultivation includes a maximum of 3 female flowering plants and is to be protected from access by children and young people.
  • It will be possible to have convictions that are entered exclusively for acts in connection with cannabis, for which the law no longer provides for a penalty in future (possession up to 25g/own cultivation of up to a maximum of 3 female flowering plants) deleted from the federal central register upon request. With the entry into force of the law, ongoing investigations and criminal proceedings relating to these acts will be ended by the options already provided for in the Code of Criminal Procedure.
  • The scope of the Federal Non-Smoking Protection Act is expanded to include the smoking of cannabis-related products; additional protection for non-smokers in accordance with the regulations for tobacco must be ensured.
  • Participation in early intervention and prevention programs for minors who possess or use cannabis is mandatory.
  • After 4 years, the requirements for Pillar 1 will be evaluated with the aim of examining possible adjustments with regard to health and youth protection as well as reducing the black market.

In addition, the provisions on youth and health protection formulated in the key issues paper of October 26, 2022 must be implemented. The intention is to design this proposed regulation in such a way that no notification obligation is triggered.

2nd pillar: Regional model project with commercial supply chains

In the next step on the way to a nationwide regulation, the second pillar implements the other approaches from the key issues paper of October 26, 2022, including an evaluation as a scientifically designed, regional and time-limited model: companies will stop production, distribution and delivery in Adult recreational cannabis specialty stores within a licensed and government controlled framework. With this pillar, the effects of a commercial supply chain on health and youth protection as well as the black market can be scientifically examined.

  • The project duration is 5 years from the established supply chain.
  • There is a spatial restriction to delivery points and adult residents of certain districts/cities in several federal states (opt-in approach).
  • Within the framework of the law, approval of the sale of edibles is being examined in compliance with strict youth and health protection regulations.
  • The model is scientifically monitored and evaluated. The findings are made available to the European partners and the EU Commission.
  • Health and youth protection also follows the key issues paper of October 26, 2022.

This part of the project is expected to continue to be subject to notification.

When implementing the 2-pillar model, the Federal Government uses its international and EU legal framework as a basis. It will refer to the interpretation declaration issued in 1993 when the UN Convention of 1988 was ratified to the relevant UN bodies and issue a statement in which it declares the project to be compatible with the purpose and legal requirements of the UN Convention. In addition, close and transparent coordination with the European partners will be important.

The federal departments are working on all parts of the project within the scope of their respective responsibilities under the overall leadership of the BMG . Both pillars are incorporated into concrete draft laws, with the working draft for pillar 1 being presented in April 2023, followed by the draft law for pillar 2. The results of the scientific report already commissioned on the effects of the legalization of recreational cannabis on health and youth protection in other countries are taken into account for both pillars.

At the same time, the Federal Government is continuing its efforts (particularly through the missions abroad) to promote its approaches to its European partners and is also examining the extent to which a sufficient number of EU Member States can initiate the initiative in order to comply with the relevant EU legal framework in the medium term to be made more flexible and developed further.