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The Global Significance Of German Cannabis Policy Modernization

Germany Parliament

Earlier today members of Germany’s government announced that the nation’s federal cabinet had approved a draft cannabis legalization measure that would serve as the first phase of an ongoing cannabis policy modernization effort largely led by Germany’s Health Minster Karl Lauterbach. The measure now heads to the Bundestag for consideration by members of the legislative body.

The proposal, as it currently stands and subject to further potential changes, would allow adults to legally cultivate, possess, and consume cannabis for personal use in Germany. The measure would also create noncommercial clubs that would provide cannabis to members. Purchasing limits would be involved, as would ‘buffer zones,’ limits on the number of clubs per jurisdiction, and a limit of 500 members per club. Minister Lauterbach made an appearance later in the day, during which he defended his measure:

The German Hemp Association stated the following regarding today’s federal cabinet approval and the transition of the process over to the Bundestag:

The German Hemp Association welcomes the cabinet draft as a milestone on the way to reforming cannabis policy in Germany. With the debate now starting in the Bundestag, the passage of the law is within reach. Hundreds of thousands of consumers have been the subject of criminal proceedings for consumption-related offenses in recent decades. This senseless repression could come to an end at the turn of the year.

The DHV hopes that the participation of the MPs will bring a breath of fresh air to the discussion about the details. Because since the draft bill, no major improvements are discernible. All of the main criticisms of the DHV are still relevant:

  • The ban on consumption in cannabis cultivation clubs is unrealistic.
  • The distance regulation will make it unreasonably difficult for clubs to find suitable locations.
  • The distance regulations for consumption cannot be observed. They violate the principle of certainty of the Basic Law. Neither consumers nor the police can know exactly where consumption is permitted and where it is not.
  • The threat of penalties and fines for small violations of the already arbitrary limits is completely exaggerated. Possession of 25 grams is perfectly legal, possession of 26 grams carries a prison sentence of up to three years. A fine of up to 100,000 euros can be imposed for consumption within a distance of 199 meters from a school.
  • A total of three plants for home cultivation is not enough. An upper limit of 25 grams is unrealistic for the storage of home-grown cannabis in your own home.

The DHV is confident that these and many other problems will now be addressed in detail in the parliamentary process. However, the current plans cannot remain the same. A large-scale suppression of the black market is only possible with the nationwide introduction of cannabis specialty shops for adults.

“Today is a good day, above all, because Parliament now has sovereignty over further decisions and no longer Karl Lauterbach,” said DHV spokesman Georg Wurth.

The second phase of Germany’s current cannabis policy modernization effort, if it succeeds in making it through the political labyrinth, will involve the launch of regional cannabis pilot projects. Germany’s pilot projects will be generally similar in principle, but likely not in size and scope, to the pilot projects currently operating in Switzerland.

Due in large part to limitations at the EU level, Germany’s current policy modernization effort does not involve the legalization of large-scale cultivation and national sales. However, that is not to say that those components will never be passed and implemented.

Today’s approval by the federal cabinet is one of the many steps along the way. It’s a significant one to be sure, although, it needs to be seen as a milestone, and not a final destination. Now that the process for approving the phase one bill has been turned over to domestic lawmakers, it will be interesting to see what evolutions the political process may yield.

It’s vital for cannabis observers to consistently keep Germany’s legalization efforts in the proper global context. Germany is trying to modernize its cannabis policies and stand up an adult-use cannabis industry for its population of over 83 million people. By comparison, the combined population of all four current legal nations (Uruguay, Canada, Malta, and Luxembourg) is only roughly half that of Germany’s population.

Furthermore, Germany shares more borders with other countries than any other nation in Europe, and all of those countries currently prohibit adult use. It’s logical that Germany’s cannabis policy modernization effort is taking longer given how ‘heavy the lift is,’ and that is also why German legalization will prove to be more significant than its predecessors. Germany is ushering in the modern cannabis policy era.

Criticisms for larger reform are absolutely valid, but the fight is also not over. A recent study by the Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics found that comprehensive legalization in Germany would net the country 4.7 billion euros per year via cannabis taxes, fees, and savings from no longer enforcing failed cannabis prohibition. That is significant, and clearly worth fighting for, in addition to fighting to prevent lives from being needlessly ruined by draconian public policies.

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach is currently headed to India for a meeting of G-20 health ministers. Given that he just held a press conference today and made international headlines, again, it’s a safe bet that cannabis will be a popular topic of discussion between Minister Lauterbach and his peers.

While it’s unclear how many will be sympathetic to Germany’s efforts, one has to assume that at least some of Minster Lauterbach’s peers will be curious and want to learn more about the topic, and that is a good thing. As a long-time cannabis activist friend used to say in regard to cannabis reform, “If we are talking, we are winning,” and Germany has the whole world talking right now.

When legalization inevitably becomes a reality in Germany, and it inevitably succeeds, other nations are going to surely follow suit and that will, in turn, result in cannabis policies being modernized on a much larger scale globally than they are right now. The legalization process in Germany has been frustrating up until this point to be sure, however, today is a big milestone that is worth celebrating, both within Germany’s borders, and beyond.