By / January 31, 2023

Will Germany Start a Wave of Cannabis Legalization in Europe?

In October 2022, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach presented the federal government with a plan to make Germany the first country in Europe to legalize cannabis for adults. Now, a potentially significant report on cannabis legalization in Germany emerged over the weekend. So let’s quickly recap how we got to where we are now.

Germany Needs Permission From Europe

Since Lauterbach first announced his plan to legalize Cannabis in Germany, he has sought permission from the European Union to submit the plan to German MPs for formal consideration. According to the report, Lauterbach is “confident” that the European Union will agree and that “the formal introduction of the legalization measure will take place in the first quarter of this year.”

Given that we are at the end of January 2023, if Europe grants its blessing and Minster Lauterbach’s timetable proves accurate, German lawmakers will submit a bill legalizing adult-use cannabis to the European Union for approval by the end of March (or sooner).

Looking at it from the perspective of other European countries, if Lauterbach is going to proceed with the formal introduction of a legalization measure with the blessing of the European Union, this logically means that other EU countries are likely to be able to do the same. If so, we could witness European legalization barriers opening up with other nations copying the German model, as the Czech Republic has already announced.

What Will Be Legal in Germany?

Minister Lauterbach’s plan, which he presented to the federal government in Germany back in October, was not its first version. A previous version was leaked in the days leading up to the formal presentation. And because of the various provisions in the revealed plan, public outrage ensued rather quickly.

The outcry was largely directed at the initial possession limit (20 grams), the THC percentage cap (10-15% depending on age), and the initial cultivation limit (2 plants).

What was eventually presented to the federal government contained slightly different findings. The possession limit was raised to “20-30 grams,” and the THC percentage limit for 18- to 20-year-old consumers was to be debated. Compared to the leaked version of the plan, the 2-plant limit increased to 3 plants per household in the presentation to the federal government.

Germany Plans to Become the European Canada

One of the most critical elements of the plan presented to the federal government was the intention to launch a legal domestic adult-use cannabis industry in Germany. Currently, the only country that allows the sale of THC-rich cannabis products nationwide to adults, including non-residents, is Canada.

Uruguay only allows sales to residents of the country, and Malta is in the process of establishing regulated cannabis clubs. No other country allows the legal sale of THC-containing cannabis products nationwide. Given how much larger Germany’s population, economy, and tourism levels are compared to Canada, launching a regulated domestic market for adult-use products in Germany would be a huge move, both for it and for Europe.

Limitations of the German model

Part of the report that appeared over the weekend described Minister Lauterbach as planning to present a “very good solution” for German lawmakers to consider. But, of course, this is not to say outright that the European Union has not demanded changes to the approach previously presented by Germany.

One huge restriction that seems to have already been agreed upon by Minister Lauterbach and the EU is that all cannabis destined for a possible adult market in Germany must be domestically produced for Germany to comply with international treaties.

Wait and See

While we will all have to wait and see how this plays out, both for Germany and for Europe, supply shortages will likely be widespread due to this restriction, even though there is no doubt that German growers will do everything in their power to produce as much cannabis as is legally possible.

However, they won’t just supply Germans. People from all over the world will be flocking to Germany to take advantage of the new adult-use cannabis market. It’s hard to say how much demand there will be for legal cannabis in Germany once sales are permitted, but it’s probably safe to assume it will be huge, which could create problems we don’t yet know about.

(Featured image by Ingo Joseph via Pexels)

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