A week after a leaked government document revealed to the public the provisional proposals for cannabis legalisation in Germany, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach addressed a press conference on Wednesday to discuss upcoming legislative changes.
Echoing many of the insights already garnered from the leaked cornerstone paper, Lauterbach outlined policy changes pertaining to cannabis possession, cultivation and retail.
Under current plans, adults will be able to purchase and possess up to 30 grams of cannabis for recreational purposes. Moreover, people will be permitted to cultivate up to three plants at home for personal use.
Citing how legalisation will help protect young people, in particular the millions of German residents currently accessing recreational cannabis through the illicit market, a regulated marketplace for cannabis will ensure the safety and consistency of products that are licensed to be sold in retail.
Highlighting this, Lauterbach said: “We don’t want to expand cannabis consumption but to improve the protection of youth and health”.
Next Steps for Cannabis Legalisation in Germany
Last year, the three-party coalition in Germany – headed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz – stated their intent to pass legislation pertaining to recreational cannabis legalisation.
Such a significant policy shift could never occur overnight. Moreover, the pace at which changes to cannabis laws can be realised is further impacted by the complexity of navigating a triple crown of domestic policy, EU laws and international treaties.
In this, it is thought that the German government are to present an outline of its plans to the European Commission within weeks.
Ideally, the Commission will give feedback on the policy proposals and state whether they are compatible with EU law. However, it is certainly possible that the powers that be in Brussels declare that such legislative changes are not able to sit within a legal European framework.
Such a move would put German law makers in a bind, and could certainly make life more difficult for the ruling coalition government if they’re unable to deliver on their policy promise. Conversely, if the European Commission do find that the fundamentals of the proposed cannabis legislation are workable, then it is likely that German parliamentarians will be presented with the draft bill in early 2023.
Legal Cannabis Learnings from Other Countries
As a European heavyweight and a global economic powerhouse, the development of a regulatory framework for adult-use cannabis in Germany would prove immensely significant and could serve as a benchmark for other countries – particularly those in Europe – seeking to embrace legal cannabis.
Lauterbach acknowledged that cannabis legalisation in Germany could present a working model for the rest of Europe, declaring that if “the law comes to pass, it would be the most liberal project to legalise cannabis in Europe, but also the most regulated market”.
Additionally, German lawmakers have been able to learn from pre-existing cannabis models in countries like Canada, the Netherlands and Uruguay (paired with a plethora of states in the U.S.).
With the benefit of hindsight, Germany should be able to present a proposal that cherry picks the best policies adopted by fellow cannabis-friendly countries, whilst avoiding those which have failed or performed sub optimally.
A key tenet of cannabis legalisation policy is diminishing commerce through non-legal avenues. However, there are various examples of adult-use cannabis laws that have failed to divert traffic running through illicit vendors to the regulated market.
For example, high proportions of cannabis are still purchased through the illicit markets in Uruguay and in U.S. states like California, due to low THC limits for cannabis products in the former, and high levels of taxation in the latter.
Lauterbach also passed comment on learnings from the Dutch model, which facilitates liberal use of cannabis outside a controlled market. As a matter of fact, the Health Minister said that what “we have learned from the Dutch experience is that we don’t want to do it that way”.
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