Is the European Union set to change its stance on Cannabis?
THE wind has been taken out of the sails of European cannabis recently with Germany opting to curtail its ambitions of a fully-fledged domestic, adult-use market.
Following a January 18 meeting between the European Commission Director-General for Migration and Home Affairs Monique Pariat and its chief negotiator, Health Minister Thomas Steffen, Germany changed its plans.
At the time many commentators assumed that Germany had been given a dressing down and concluded the EC was maintaining a hard-line on cannabis.
Very little has emerged from the German side on the exact nature of the January meeting with Ms Pariat, or an earlier one on November 14, last year.
Tail-Wind For Change?
And, the EC and the German Health department have refused to disclose any details of what was discussed at the two meetings when approached by Business of Cannabis.
However, after several conversations with senior German and European cannabis industry figures we understand a tail wind for change may well be emerging in Brussels.
At the two meetings Business of Cannabis understands both parties avoided any in-depth, technical discussions on how Germany could implement its proposals.
With the EC still finding its feet in relation to how to manage the gathering momentum for cannabis reform the consensus was to ease off on any speedy manoeuvres and settle for a more gentle pace, we understand.
One European cannabis expert with in-depth knowledge of the discussions, who chose to remain unnamed, told Business of Cannabis: “The consensus was that Germany was moving too fast and the European cannabis liberalisation should not be moving at such a pace.
“There were no in-depth legal discussions and Germany agreed to slow the pace. At this stage there have been no serious discussions on how adult-use programmes can be implemented in the European Union.”
A second well-placed source said they understood there is no ‘interest’ from the EC in punishing Germany but now that cannabis had moved up the pecking order in terms of regulatory priorities it would prefer a slower development pace.
Understanding The Changes
A EC spokesperson told Business of Cannabis: “We are aware and we are closely following these developments in Member States, notably to understand the impact of changes in cannabis policies. This includes the impact on health, crime, environment or social aspects.”
When pressed on what ‘closely following’ and ‘impacts’ meant it declined to comment further.
Business of Cannabis has previously highlighted there are ways in which countries can reform their cannabis laws in line with international treaty obligations.
The two possible compliant ways to proceed are an interpretive approach to legalise non-medical cannabis industry under article 2 paragraph 9 of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (SCND), or legalising as a scientific experiment – see here.
As things stand Germany’s watered down cannabis plans will see it legislate to allow for the creation of cannabis clubs with a permit to cultivate their own plants, whilst also undertaking a series of trials in a bid to secure the scientific evidence required to satisfy regulators.
This latter pathway has also been chosen by non-European Union member Switzerland, which has launched a number of cannabis trials with more to follow.
Cannabis Can Be Cultivated
The EC appears comfortable with this approach as it dovetails with the obligations required in the international drug treaties and the EC’s own regulations.
Whilst also showing its teeth, the EC acknowledged this approach in its communication with ourselves, saying: “It is important to consider the EU legislative framework on drugs. EU law (Council Framework Decision 2004/757/JHA) (which) obliges Member States to take the necessary measures to ensure that crimes linked to trafficking in drugs, including cannabis, are punishable.
“This act lays down minimum criminal sanctions for illicit drug trafficking. Personal consumption of drugs is not covered and this is left for the Member States to decide how to address the personal use of drugs, including for cannabis.
“Under EU law, the cultivation of the cannabis plant is also prohibited, with a few notable exceptions. Cannabis can be cultivated ether in case there is a specific right/authorisation, for example for the production of medicines derived from cannabis plants, or in the case of the exclusion of the scope for ‘own personal consumption’, as this is left for the Member States.”
Over the coming weeks the EC’s resolve on these matters will be tested further as the Czech Republic presses ahead with its plans to blow away the prohibition cobwebs.