Update on German Cannabis Reform

Liz Filmer
08 Sep 2023

On the 16th August, Germany's government approved a bill legalising recreational marijuana possession for adults. The move is crucial in gaining parliament's support. Chancellor Olaf Scholz hopes the law will pull profits from the black market, provide safety from contamination and decrease drug-related crime.

The draft law aims to 'make it easier for consumers to use cannabis responsibly'. Adults are permitted to grow cannabis and acquire it through acknowledged cannabis associations.

The proposition is only the start and will allow legislators to make an 'evidence-based judgment on the eventual intro of a commercial cannabis supply chain later. on

Cannabis club members will be allowed to purchase up to 25 grams daily. Those between 18 and 21 would be permitted 30 grams per month, and THC content would be capped at 10 per cent. Clubs will be restricted to a maximum of 500 'associates'. Multiple memberships will not be authorised. 

Associates will not be permitted to smoke the drug on or near the clubs - a break from the 'coffee shop' traditions of other European cities with lax laws on marijuana consumption. Any advertising or sponsoring of cannabis clubs would be prohibited.

"We need low-threshold and nationwide offers that do not stigmatise consumers - at doctors, pharmacies and in addiction help"Burkhard Blienert- commissioner for addiction and drug issues 

Why now? 

Cannabis is the most commonly used drug in the world. Its use in Germany has grown in recent years despite the current regulations outlawing it. 

The idea is that by removing drugs from the street and decreasing the black market supply, the young and vulnerable will not be as exposed.

Regulating cannabis use in a controlled environment is hoped to make it easier for authorities to observe supplies and ensure that the cannabis is not tainted with dangerous substances if people use it.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach commented that a critical part of the overall plan is to dismantle the taboo around cannabis use and encourage conversations surrounding the risks of using cannabis and ultimately reducing its consumption.

"The Cannabis Act marks a turning point in what has unfortunately been a failed cannabis drug policy. The aim is to push back the black market and drug-related crime, curb the dealing in impure or toxic substances and reduce consumer numbers."

Scholz's government had already scaled back their original plans to permit the general sale of cannabis in authorised shops after talks with Brussels.

Alternatively, they decided to launch a pilot project for a small number of licensed shops in specific regions to observe the effects that a commercial supply chain of recreational cannabis could have over five years. 

For this to happen, Germany must submit separate legislation in a second phase. Projects like this are ongoing or in the planning phase in Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Germany is also part of the 1961 U.N. Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which prohibits the legalisation of recreational cannabis. The country would have to withdraw from the convention to legalise the drug, which could take up to a year.

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Liz Filmer