German Officials Revise Plan for Cannabis Reform

Stephen Andrews
12 Apr 2023

Germany's initial plan for Cannabis legalisation failed after undergoing review with the European Union. The country officials have subsequently developed a new framework, revealing a scaled-back legalisation version. The main change is that legal recreational sales will not start immediately everywhere nationwide.

German officials shared details about the revised proposal in a press conference held Wednesday, April 12. "The previous cannabis policy has failed. Now we have to go new ways", Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said during the press conference. 

The modified plan would seek to provide for "the controlled delivery of cannabis to adults within clear limits", he said, and added that "we want to fight the black market [and] we want to push back drug-related crime". 

At the same press, the Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, Cem Özdemir, acknowledged that "the use of cannabis is a social reality", and he added that "decades of prohibition policies have turned a blind eye to this and have primarily caused problems". 

The revised framework is a scaled-back version of the legalisation plan that the German government first announced at the end of 2022. The initial version envisioned legal recreational retail of cannabis to commence throughout the whole country. But this won't be the case now. 

Instead, the plan would involve granting work permits to dispensaries in certain regions around Germany, allowing them to stay operational for five years. During this period, officials can focus on assessing the effects of cannabis shops in terms of consumer trends and the underground market. 

The new plan further envisions that adults of legal age can carry up to 25 grams of marijuana and cultivate up to three flowering plants for personal use. The government will also permit "cannabis clubs" with a maximum of 500 members. The working of these clubs would be similar to those in Spain, the Netherlands and Malta. 

Adults over 21 could access up to 50 grams of cannabis monthly via the club, and those aged 18-21 would be limited to 30 grams within the month. Smoking at the club premises would not be allowed, but members can take home up to seven seeds or five cuttings for homegrowing. 

The reactions from other politicians and the public were generally positive regarding the revised plan. Nevertheless, there were also some critics, mainly directed at the "too restrictive" THC limits, lack of commitment to edibles, and the fact that commercial sales would not start nationwide. 

The initial legalisation framework proposed by the government would have allowed adults 18 and above to purchase and carry 20-30 grams of marijuana at federally licensed stores and possibly pharmacies. The plan also allowed the cultivation of up to three plants per household, with rules on enclosing them to prevent underaged access. 

The plan would have suspended all criminal proceedings for offences that become legal under the new law. Marijuana would have been subjected to special sales tax.

Lauterback said last month that Germany had received "very good feedback" from the EU on its initial legalisation framework; however, he also announced that some parts of the plan would need to be modified before he returns to the EU "soon" with a "good proposal" that protects public health as well as the safety of young people. 

It is understood that Germany needs approval from the EU only for the sales part of the reform, but not other components such as homegrowing or possession. Once fully aligned with the EU, the German cabinet will introduce a bill and effectuate legalisation sometime "this year." 

Germany is the EU's largest economy. The country took the first steps towards legalisation during the summer of 2022 when it launched a series of public hearings to inform on the end of cannabis prohibition. German authorities also participated in multilateral discussions with officials from the Netherlands, Malta and Luxembourg to coordinate future cannabis regulations and address any resistance from the United Nations, which maintains a ban for member states to legalise marijuana. These meetings are likely to feature more EU countries in the future. 

Stephen Andrews