Will Germany’s Current Legalization Measure Evolve?
Earlier this month Germany’s federal cabinet approved a long-awaited cannabis legalization measure that was largely led by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach. The measure in its current form would, among other things, legalize the personal cultivation, possession, and consumption of cannabis for adult-use purposes.
The announcement of the measure’s updated provisions, which occurred several months ago, was received with mixed reactions from Germany’s cannabis community, as well as by cannabis community members abroad. Everyone seems to agree that the measure is better than outright prohibition, however, some of the provisions are better than others, as captured in a recent press release from the German Hemp Association:
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.
It does appear that changes to the measure will at least be attempted by domestic lawmakers in Germany now that the process has transitioned over to the Bundestag, as reflected in a recent social media post by Bundestag member Kristine Lütke (FDP):
Der im Kabinett beschlossene #Cannabis-Gesetzentwurf bleibt hinter den Erwartungen zurück. In den parlamentarischen Beratungen werden wir den Entwurf grundlegend überarbeiten, um am Ende ein praxistaugliches und sinnvolles Gesetz zu verabschieden. #WeeklyWeedTweet
— Kristine Lütke MdB (@kristine_lutke) August 18, 2023
It’s a safe bet that changes are on the way. It’s not a question of ‘if,’ but rather ‘what?’ Will the changes amount to minor tweaks, or will they be a fairly substantial overhaul of major components of the measure, such as those listed in the DHV’s recent press release? Will attempts to change the measure derail the process? Only time will tell.
The domestic political process is not occurring in a vacuum. All the while the European Union and various treaties loom over the process, and needless to say, it will be interesting to see what the EU’s reaction is to any changes made during the domestic political process.
It’s also worth noting that the current measure being considered does not encapsulate everything involved with Germany’s cannabis policy modernization effort. It’s merely the first of what will ultimately prove to be three phases of the effort.
This first one involves components related to personal freedoms and noncommercial cannabis clubs, which is what is being considered now. Phase two will involve the launch of regional commerce pilot programs, and that will require a separate measure. Lastly, and this third phase is currently out of the scope of Minister Lauterbach’s plan, is the launch of nationwide sales.
Given how long the first phase is taking, cannabis observers inside and outside of Germany should be ready for a lengthy process. ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ as the saying goes, and the same is true for modernizing the cannabis policies of Europe’s largest economy.