Germany unveils draft bill to Legalize Cannabis
Germany's government is taking steps toward the legalization of cannabis by publishing the draft bill for the first pillar of a two-pillar model designed to dismantle prohibition policies.
German's Ministry of Health published on July 5 the long-waited draft bill to regulate the use of cannabis for personal use, home growing, and the establishment of cannabis growers' associations designed similarly to the cannabis social clubs' model.
The proposed legislation aims to address the first pillar of a comprehensive two-pillar model that will put an end to cannabis prohibition in the European country.
Under the draft bill, adults aged 18 and above will be allowed to possess up to 25 grams of cannabis for personal use and cultivate a maximum of three plants. However, the consumption of cannabis in the "immediate vicinity" of individuals under 18, within a 200-meter radius of schools, children's and youth facilities, playgrounds, publicly accessible sports facilities, and pedestrian zones between 7 am and 8 pm, will remain prohibited. It's important to note that fines and criminal charges will continue to be imposed for specific unlawful activities.
The draft bill also laid the foundations for the establishment of cannabis growers' associations (Anbauvereinigungen).
The proposed legislation allows an association to accept up to 500 members. Each member belonging to the association is eligible to receive either 25 grams per day or 50 grams per month for personal use. Additionally, associations have the authority to supply each member with a maximum of seven seeds per month, which can be imported, or five cuttings per month.
The consumption of cannabis will be prohibited inside associations and within a 200-meter distance from their entrance. Additionally, associations are prohibited from engaging in any form of advertising or sponsoring their activities.
Germany's state governments have the authority to regulate the number of associations permitted in a district or urban area by issuing ordinances with a maximum limit of one association per 6,000 inhabitants.
But what is a real game-changer for Germany is the removal of cannabis from the Narcotics Drugs Act (Betäubungsmittelgesetz, BtMG) and other related laws. This move grants the medical cannabis industry more flexibility, although it should be noted that the proposed legislation does not alter the existing medical cannabis industry substantially. Instead, it primarily focuses on improving access to medical cannabis by allowing patients to obtain a regular cannabis prescription rather than a specialized narcotic prescription for their medication.
The draft bill related to the second pillar of Germany's legalization model will be published in the second half of 2023 after being reviewed by the European Commission, and it will be about regional pilot projects with commercial supply chains, likely following the model in Switzerland and the Netherlands.
Overall, the two-pillar model planned by the German government to legalize cannabis for personal use in the country aims to address public health protection, prevention, and education about the use of cannabis, curb the illicit market, and strengthen child and youth protection.
Whether this model can effectively achieve these goals remains to be seen. It needs to be taken into consideration that Germany initially had an ambitious plan to legalize cannabis in the country by building up a commercial supply chain for adult-use cannabis with a potential tax revenue of billions of dollars, which would have made it the first European country to legalize the sale of cannabis.
However, it has then faced the legal hurdles of international and European laws that don't allow access to cannabis for recreational use. Although the international treaties could have had less impact in terms of legal consequences, as seen in the cases of Uruguay and Canada, the breach of EU laws on narcotics could lead to severe sanctions. This is why the German government revised its plan and introduced a draft bill that aligns more with European laws by excluding the commercial sales of cannabis products.
By adopting a non-commercial model to legalize cannabis in the country, Germany could become the third EU member to regulate personal use, following in the footsteps of Malta and Luxembourg.
But the importance of legalization in Germany lies in the fact that more European countries could follow a similar model, triggering other countries to pursue cannabis regulation. This has already happened in the Czech Republic, which announced its intention to legalize cannabis after Berlin.
Furthermore, the establishment of regional pilot projects in Germany following the European Commission's review, could trigger other EU countries to consider experimenting with the controlled sale of cannabis products. This would allow them to assess the effects of full legalization. However, it will be up to the EU to review its laws regarding the regulation of recreational cannabis sales within member countries.
But for now, it will be up to Germany to successfully implement the draft legislation and put it into effect.
The Ministry of Health's draft bill is expected to be approved by the cabinet by August. Following that, the law would need to be passed by the Bundestag, the German federal parliament. Therefore, a decision on cannabis legalization could potentially be made this year.