Germany plans to decriminalize the purchase and ownership of small amounts of cannabis under a long-awaited reform blueprint that would deliver on an election promise of weed reform by the center-left coalition which came to power last year.
The reform, leaked to the RND newspaper group Wednesday, would also allow cannabis sales in licensed shops and potentially also pharmacies but ban advertising to promote consumption.
The so-called cornerstone paper that has been circulated for discussion around the government represents an incremental step toward proposing and passing legislation that could enter into force during this parliamentary term. But, in terms of its significance, it represents a decisive step toward legalization in the EU’s most populous nation and a potentially huge opportunity for the North American cannabis industry that has already profited from the U.S. reform playbook.
A handful of European countries, like Portugal, have already decriminalized cannabis but many others are looking to see how Germany’s reforms fare before moving.
The paper is the result of a months-long inquiry by Burkhard Blienert, Germany’s commissioner on narcotic drugs, who has had to please a wide range of interest groups and the three different coalition parties who promised legalization in November 2021.
His plan, on which legislation would be based once the rest of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government signs off on it, would decriminalize the purchase and possession of up to 20 grams of cannabis by adults. It would also be legal to cultivate up to two cannabis plants at home.
Cannabis should then be sold in licensed shops and potentially also pharmacies to better cover Germany’s rural areas. It is also being considered to allow “specialty stores with consumption options,” or coffee shops in common parlance. Germany has allowed the sale of medical cannabis in pharmacies since 2016.
Also, there should be a 15 percent limit on THC, a psychoactive substance, in cannabis that is sold legally. For young adults aged 18 to 21 cannabis shouldn’t contain more than 10 percent THC. Lastly, cannabis sold in Germany should be produced domestically to avoid quarrels with international law.
Unfortunately for Blienert, not everybody in the coalition likes his plan and it might need to undergo further changes to command the parliamentary majority needed to enact the reforms, which lawmakers say could happen next year.
“Unnecessarily restrictive!” said Kristine Lütke, drug policy speaker of the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), one of the three parties in the ruling traffic-light coalition. THC caps, possession limits and stricter regulations until 21 years of age “will drive consumers to the black market. A disaster for youth, health & consumer protection,” she tweeted.
Kirsten Kappert-Gonther, vice chair of the health committee from the Greens, criticized the “anticipatory obedience” when it comes to importing cannabis. Not importing and obeying “rudimentary” EU law could mean that the cannabis demand cannot be met. A gap that the black market would fill.
Yet, there is more backing from Blienert’s Social Democratic Party (SPD). Parliament member Carmen Wegge said “many points in the corner paper are welcomed.” However, she adds, “Parliament has the final say.”
So, the highly anticipated cornerstone paper will now turn into the highly debated cornerstone paper.
This debate will be closely followed internationally. Not only because Germany is the largest economy in the EU and plays a model role here, but also because a holistic legalization is being pursued, with regulations, controls and transparency along the entire value chain, since in Germany nothing is left to chance.
The Health Ministry, in response to a request for comment from POLITICO, said that the coalition government had not yet agreed a common proposal for cannabis reform.