The German government has unveiled a plan to liberalize cannabis laws by decriminalizing possession of cannabis for personal use and allowing members of non-profit “cannabis clubs” to purchase cannabis for recreational purposes. The proposed legislation, which is a step back from earlier, more ambitious plans following a clash with the EU, will allow possession of up to 25 grams for personal use.
Germany Decriminalizes Cannabis for Personal Use
The German government unveiled a plan on Wednesday to liberalize cannabis laws by decriminalizing possession of cannabis for personal use and allowing members of non-profit “cannabis clubs” to purchase cannabis for recreational purposes.
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Germany Backpedals on Earlier Plans After EU Clash
German officials originally envisioned setting up regional pilot projects to legalize the sale of cannabis through “commercial supply chains,” – Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said. However, the new proposal differs from the commercial proposal he presented in October, which would have allowed the sale of cannabis to adults nationwide at licensed outlets.
The German government changed the plan after talks with the European Union’s Executive Commission. Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir said in a statement that EU law “puts limits on what we have to respect, but I would also say that we are pushing.” – Reuters reports.
Lauterbach warned from the outset that the government would only proceed with its original plans if it received the green light from the EU. Germany has allowed medical cannabis since 2017, with approval and a prescription from a doctor.
Germany to Allow 25 Grams for Personal Use and 3 Plants at Home
The proposed legislation in Germany would legalize the possession of up to 25 grams of cannabis for recreational purposes and allow the cultivation of up to three cannabis plants at home.
The new law would allow German residents aged 18 and older to join non-profit “cannabis clubs” with up to 500 members who would be allowed to grow cannabis for personal use. Members would be entitled to purchase up to 25 grams per day or up to 50 grams per month – for adults under 21. The number would be capped at 30 grams.
Membership in more than one club would not be allowed, and German authorities would be able to limit the number of clubs. The cost of maintaining the clubs will be covered by membership fees, which will be graduated according to the amount of cannabis used by members.
Özdemir said the bill will be finalized this month and that “consumption will become legal as early as this year.” Officials hope the first step will help combat the black market.
Lauterbach added that home cultivation and cannabis clubs are the first of two pillars of the German push for legalization. Hemp clubs already exist in Spain and Malta.
“Our goal under the first pillar is that we don’t have to notify Brussels [to check whether national laws violate EU regulations],” added German Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir. The legalization bill will be presented in April, he said.
Two-Stage Plan to Legalize Cannabis in Germany
Stage 1 – Private, Non-Commercial Cultivation
Non-commercial associations may collectively cultivate cannabis for recreational purposes in Germany, according to a strict legal framework, and make it available to their members for personal use.
Employees of the German cannabis association may participate in cultivation, but outsourcing cultivation to third parties is prohibited. The legal framework governing this will be set forth in a separate law.
In addition to the harvested crops, associations may make seeds and seedlings available to their members for private self-cultivation. Whether and how seeds and/or seedlings for private cultivation can be purchased from associations without the need for association membership is under discussion.
Approval and supervision of cultivation in Germany will be carried out by national authorities, including compliance with quantity, quality, and child and youth protection requirements, as well as through samples and site visits.
Personal data collected by the associations in connection with the provision of hemp, seeds, and seedlings to members may not be transferred to unauthorized persons or used for other purposes.
Membership in several German cannabis associations is prohibited, and fines, license revocation, or fines/long-term imprisonment for multiple violations are possible.
Additionally, the number of crops grown and harvested will be adjusted according to demand, with reports and documentation on the number of crops produced and shared to be required.
Stage 2 – Regional Pilot Projects
The second stage of the model for cannabis legalization in Germany is a regional pilot project to study the effects of legal commercial cannabis production, distribution, and sale in specialized adult-use stores.
The project will last five years and will be conducted in selected areas in Germany, where dispensaries will operate, and product sales will be available only to adult residents of those areas.
The project will be strictly controlled by the state and based on licensing. The project will study the effects of commercial supply chains on the health and safety of youth and the black market in Germany.
The project will consider the possibility of legally selling cannabis-infused food products, but only under strictly controlled conditions and with consideration for youth health and safety regulations.
The project will undergo scientific evaluation, and the results will be available to European partners and the European Commission. The project will also have to meet requirements for protecting the health and safety of young people in Germany, such as those outlined in a document published in October 2022.
The entire project will have to be within the framework of international and EU law, and the German government will try to convince its European partners of its approach and of a possible change in EU law in the future.
Next Step – Pilot Program for Legal Cannabis Sales
The German government plans to set the next step this fall: a five-year pilot program to legalize cannabis in selected regions. Lauterbach said that the details, including which regions will be selected, have not yet been decided.
The government wants the pilot projects to be evaluated by scientists. Ministers are optimistic that successful tests will enable them to press for a change in policy at the EU level and eventually open the way to allowing the sale of cannabis in licensed stores in Germany.
The reaction so far from Brussels “on the one hand is something that may disappoint us, but on the other hand, it is also an opportunity – an opportunity to build a foundation for European cannabis policy through a well-conducted study,” Lauterbach told reporters in Berlin.
Speaking on behalf of the center-right opposition on health policy, Tino Sorge told the Funke press group that the German government is accelerating the legalization of the risky drug “despite European legal barriers, clear expert opinions, and bad experiences in other countries.” He accused Lauterbach of setting the wrong priorities.
The health minister argued that the existing drug policy in Germany has failed. He said the government’s goal is to provide greater security, protect consumers from contaminated and polluted cannabis, and reduce drug-related crime.
Federal Justice Minister Marco Buschmann added, “The previous restrictive approach to cannabis in Germany has failed. Cannabis prohibition criminalizes countless people, pushing them into criminal structures and blocking vast law enforcement resources. It’s time for a new approach that allows for greater personal responsibility, stemming the black market and easing the burden on police and prosecutors.”
“We are not creating a problem,” – Lauterbach insisted. “We are trying to solve a problem.”
He reiterated that Germany does not want to follow the model of the neighboring Netherlands, which combines decriminalization with little market regulation.
(Featured image by RODNAE Productions via Pexels)
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