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What Happens Next For German Legalization?

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Members of Germany’s Bundestag recently approved a long-awaited adult-use cannabis legalization measure. The successful vote occurred roughly 2.5 years after Germany’s current governing coalition was first elected and members of the coalition collectively expressed their desire to get such a measure passed.

The recent legalization vote in the Bundestag, which was 407 to 226, was a major victory for Germany’s cannabis movement. Germany is the largest country by far to have ever passed a national adult-use legalization measure.

Germany’s population is roughly 83 million people. The other countries to have passed a national legalization measure (Uruguay, Canada, Malta, Luxembourg) have a combined population of roughly 43 million people.

The successful vote is a huge milestone, however, it does not mark the finish line for German legalization. For starters, the approved measure must now be considered by Germany’s Federal Council (Bundesrat). The Bundesrat’s approval is not required, however, the legislative body does have the option to challenge the measure.

As it stands, portions of Germany’s legalization measure pertaining to personal freedoms are expected to go into effect on April 1, 2024, with the launch of noncommercial cannabis clubs expected at the beginning of July of this year. However, a challenge by the Bundestrat could delay implementation.

“It is possible that the implementation of the draft law may take some additional time depending on the decision of the Federal Council (Bundesrat) whether it refers the draft law to a mediation committee for further consideration of amendments. This could prolong the whole legalization process even for a couple of months.” stated Peter Homberg, Partner at Dentons.

Per initial reporting by RND, Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) does expect constitutional challenges against the planned legalization of cannabis consumption, although he expects that the law will stand up to challenges.

Something that advocates should push for in Germany is the immediate suspension of enforcement of prohibition on individuals when they are within the parameters of the recently approved law. With legalization now inevitable in Germany, subjecting anyone to enforcement is a waste of the courts’ time, in addition to it being harmful to the consumer. Many legal states in the U.S. have taken this sensible approach.

Another thing that advocates need to push for is for Germany’s government to remove personal cannabis offenses from people’s records, which German Health Minister Lauterbach recently spoke about:

“Without amnesty, what would be our message to those convicted of cannabis? “As far as the legislature is concerned, you haven’t done anything wrong, but the punishment remains because the courts don’t want to do the work with you.” Legalization will soon relieve the burden on the courts.” Minister Lauterbach stated in a social media post (translated from German to English).

Advocates also need to keep holding lawmakers accountable in Germany to make good on the planned second phase/pillar of the nation’s legalization model, which involves the launch of regional adult-use cannabis pilot programs.

The pilot programs, combined with noncommercial cannabis clubs and home cultivation, will serve as the backbone for sourcing legal cannabis in Germany for the foreseeable future.