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Cannabis legalization – how does it look in Germany?

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach is campaigning for the legalization of cannabis in Germany. The traffic light coalition had declared early on in its term of office that it wanted to allow the dispensing of cannabis to adults in the future. For this purpose, a key points paper was compiled, which sets out the most important key points for cannabis release. The focus is on protecting the health of citizens; smoking pot is to be legalized only for those who are of age and capable of making decisions.

Cannabis no longer classified as a narcotic?

The German government’s key issues paper states that cannabis should no longer be classified as a narcotic in the future. This would legalize cannabis consumption in Germany without endangering young people. Basically, the focus is on controlled dispensing to ensure a realistic drug policy. Stoned adults today still have to buy their cannabis from illegal dealers in parks, because prohibition reduces the options.

In many countries, controlled dispensing for consumption purposes has long been enforced. Even though the Federal Minister of Health has been criticized for his policies in many areas, he seems to think more progressively than his predecessors regarding his drug policy.

Within what limits may cannabis be dispensed to adults?

The federal government’s key issues paper states that the federal cabinet is considering dispensing 20 to 30 grams (not yet defined) of cannabis to adults. Only controlled dispensing via certified specialist stores or pharmacies is permissible. In addition, the key points from the cornerstone paper stipulate that there will be quality regulations for cannabis.

It will also be permissible for users to cultivate and use their own cannabis for consumption purposes. However, distribution or sale is to remain prohibited in support of modern addiction policy. Whether the purchase of cannabis seeds will also only be permitted at certain points of sale cannot yet be precisely determined.

Cannabis legalization in check - what does the key issues paper envisage?

The traffic light government and above all Karl Lauterbach have to face criticism from citizens time and again. However, there is much praise for the legalization of cannabis. Experts have long been convinced that smoking pot is far less harmful than the permanent consumption of alcohol. So it is high time for a modern drug policy in 2022.

The most important factor of the cornerstone paper is the controlled dispensing of cannabis to adults. The permitted dispensing amount is referred to as pleasure cannabis. The THC content itself will not play a role, according to the federal government’s latest position, as it would be too difficult to control. Consumers will also be allowed to cultivate for personal use. Up to three flowering plants per year and person are to be permitted. It is not known whether CBD cannabis will be counted separately if the THC content is below 0.2%.

Will the federal government's move make cannabis more expensive?

Consumers know where they can buy cannabis if they want to smoke a joint. The sale of the substance, which is still classified as a drug, takes place in parks, via the darknet and through other illegal channels. So in the future, cannabis will now be available in stores. In terms of quality, this will have serious advantages for consumers if they do not opt for home cultivation. But what about the price of cannabis products?

The Bundestag has indicated that in addition to the general sales tax for sales, a special cannabis tax should also be introduced. However, the plan is that the final price in this context should not exceed that of the black market. The extent to which sellers will be allowed to advertise their products and whether the tax will also apply to self-cultivators has not yet been conclusively clarified. However, there are clear voices in the key issues paper in favor of a general ban on advertising.

In practice, this is what it will come down to. Experts are sure that above all protection against unwanted addiction and also the protection of minors play an important role. Police crime statistics show that consumers are getting younger and younger. It would be a serious mistake to entice them with advertising. Another conceivable solution is one similar to that for gambling. Here, advertising measures are only permitted from 22:00 to 06:00.

Will cannabis still be legalized in 2023?

The key points paper on cannabis legalization in Germany dates from October 2022, and so far the federal government has not yet decided on any further steps. According to Christian Lindner (FDP), legalization was actually (as of September 2022) expected in 2023 at the latest. Now, Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has stopped the overzealousness of the coalition partner. When presenting the various key points, he stated that he expected full cannabis legalization in Germany in 2024 at the earliest. This date would be later than expected, but by then the federal cabinet would be able to set up a watertight law and still maintain health protection for citizens.

What should legalization look like in this country?

Yesterday, weed and co. were still drugs, now cannabis legalization is becoming more and more realistic. Although the controlled distribution of cannabis can have many advantages, there are of course also critics. The federal government’s complicated task now is to maintain prevention and education while still decriminalizing the dispensing of cannabis. This, of course, raises questions, especially about the rules and the plan that the federal government now wants to implement step by step. Here comes a small overview of what the traffic light plans to do on topics such as release, sale, cultivation and road traffic:

  • The way of consumption: there will be different cannabis products on the market. These include oils and drops, but also flowers for smoking and capsules for ingestion. Cookies and other foodstuffs containing cannabis, on the other hand, are not to be permitted.
  • THC content: Pleasure cannabis is available in various THC concentrations. Experts assume that there could be limits in the age range between 18 and 21 years. It is not yet clear how these are to be controlled in home cultivation.
  • Places of sale: Those who do not opt for home cultivation will initially only be able to buy cannabis in licensed specialty stores and possibly pharmacies. Online retail seems to be excluded from the distribution of recreational cannabis for the time being. However, it is not unlikely that this issue will change. E-commerce has become widespread and therefore it is conceivable that THC can also be purchased digitally in the future.
  • Tax payments: The Minister of Health spoke of a tax to be imposed on cannabis products. It is to be seen separately from the sales tax. Prices should not exceed those currently prevailing on the black market.
  • Law enforcement: Under the plans, the possession, consumption and cultivation of cannabis will no longer be subject to criminal prosecution. This is tantamount to complete decriminalization, and criminal proceedings still in progress could be discontinued. Cannabis consumption itself is not considered a criminal offense even today, but the legal situation in Germany is very confused.
  • Driving with cannabis: There is a limit for alcohol behind the wheel, but for cannabis the health minister has so far aimed for a zero-tolerance policy. Too little is known about how strong the effects of cannabis are on reaction time. However, there could still be changes in this area after reviewing studies.

Protection for young people and vulnerable groups important

The agreement to legalize cannabis in the coalition agreement was not easy for all politicians. Even now, there is strong headwind, in some places even from the SPD. The FDP and the Greens in particular had rushed ahead to push legalization. The Federal Center for Health Education attaches great importance above all to maintaining the protection of minors. Already today, cannabis is the most commonly used drug among young people, with around 10.4% of young people between the ages of 12 and 17 having already had their first experience.

There is a fear that children and young people will come into contact with cannabis even more quickly once legalization is in place. To avoid this, the focus is on prevention and education. At schools, the topic of addiction is openly communicated in order to reduce the dangers to a minimum. The goal is to strive for an appropriate approach to cannabis and at the same time to protect children and young people.

Conclusion: Cannabis will probably not be legal in Germany until 2024

Including the release of cannabis in the coalition agreement was not easy for all politicians. One side is in favor of self-responsible use, while the other rejects it. Nevertheless, the cabinet will push ahead with legalization, and in the future controlled dispensing of cannabis will also be possible in this country. Experts do not expect consumption to increase rapidly as a result. Consumers already know where they can buy drugs of all kinds.

It is to be seen as a vehement advantage that decriminalization will make it possible to deal with cannabis in a sensible way. Whoever buys on the street from the dealer on the corner today can never be completely sure of the quality. Distorted cannabis, harmful additives, dangerous drugs – there are all kinds of dangers here. It has been shown with regard to the USA and the Netherlands, but also on islands such as Gran Canaria, that the controlled distribution of THC has not led to an exorbitant increase in users. We will probably not know how things will go in Germany until 2024.