German Legalization Plan Continues To Evolve After Public Outcry
Last week I wrote about the reported leaking of components of a long awaited German legalization plan. The legalization details were reportedly from Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD), and provided the first deep dive opportunity for global cannabis policy and industry observers who have all been heavily focused on all things cannabis and Germany ever since the dust settled on the 2021 federal election. German voters elected a new governing coalition in 2021 and the coalition, often referred to as the Traffic Light Coalition, quickly indicated its intent to pass a legalization measure and launch a regulated adult-use industry.
A new report is out today from The Rheinischer Post which indicates that Health Minister Karl Lauterbach will present a legalization plan to the federal cabinet tomorrow. The new report also indicates that some components of the plan have evolved after significant public pushback occurred regarding the previously leaked components.
As I touched on in my previous article, it’s a common political strategy to ‘float political balloons’ via leaks and public comments to see if the public ‘pops’ the metaphorical balloons in the form of public outcry. Lawmakers use that strategy during political negotiations from time to time to force their opponents to relent to some degree. I suspect that is what happened last week given the fact that the measure seems to have improved post-outcry, although admittedly, that is just conjecture on my part. Regardless, the evolved components of the plan are significant nonetheless, and are the exact ones that were the main focus of public pushback.
What Changed And What Remained The Same?
The legal age for adult-use cannabis, 18 years old, was unchanged in the reported latest version of Germany’s legalization plan, which was expected. The initial 20 gram possession limit appears to now be described as ‘a maximum of 20 to 30 grams.’ Public outcry regarding possession limits was not limited to just citizens, as deputy FDP chairman Johannes Vogel was also very vocal about his opposition to the 20 gram limit. A prohibition on advertising remained unchanged, as well as the types of outlets that may be allowed to legally sell adult-use cannabis (licensed stores and pharmacies).
Arguably the greatest differences between the components leaked last week compared to what is going to be reportedly presented tomorrow hinges on THC limits for products. Initially, it was being reported that there would be a 15% THC limit on products sold to people over 21, and a separate 10% THC limit on products sold to people of legal age under 21. Per The Rheinischer Post’s reporting (translated to English), there will be no cap for people 21 and over, however, “Because of the increased risk of cannabis-related brain damage in adolescence, it is being examined whether an upper limit for the intoxicating substance THC will be set for adults up to the age of 21, according to the paper.”
Another significant change from last week’s version of the plan compared to this week’s pertains to home cultivation. Last week’s version reportedly involved a two plant limit for home cultivation, however, this week’s version has a three plant home cultivation limit. By comparison, in Malta adult households can cultivate up to four cannabis plants. Malta is the only country in Europe that has passed an adult-use cannabis legalization measure, although adult-use cannabis sales remain prohibited in Malta.
Will There Be More Changes?
If there is one major takeaway from what has transpired in Germany over the course of the last week, it’s that the legalization process is still very much ongoing. It is virtually guaranteed that there will be further tweaks made to the legalization plan in Germany, and it’s largely just a question of what will change. Furthermore, even the evolved plan still leaves quite a few extremely important items to finalize, including the actual personal possession limit, potential THC limits for products sold to younger adults, and laws pertaining to edibles. And all the while there are still continental and international treaty concerns to be worked out.
As The Rheinischer Post stated in it’s coverage (translated to English), “The cabinet referral is an intermediate step.” The political process can be full of twists and turns, especially when it involves something as monumental as launching the world’s largest legal cannabis market. Currently, the only public policy and regulation ‘guidebook’ for launching a national adult-use cannabis industry open to the world is Canada, and for a multitude of reasons Germany is an entirely different situation compared to Canada. Germany can learn some things from Canada to be sure, however, much of the heavy political and regulatory lifting in Germany is completely unique, and as such, people would be wise to anticipate more changes in the future, albeit more on the fringes versus a complete overhaul. For cannabis advocates specifically, it’s wise to remain vocal and keep the pressure on because, as we witnessed over the course of the last week, that pressure can result in improved changes to what is being proposed in Germany.