What Does German Reform Mean for Canna Culture?

Liz Filmer
18 Mar 2024

When Amsterdam first opened their infamous “coffee shops” back in the 1970s, the Dutch capital was one of the only places where you could buy and smoke weed openly, quickly earning a reputation as an international mecca for weed aficionados. Europe however has since fallen behind as the US and Canada have gone on to have thriving legal markets with a whole wider culture to accompany it, including heavy commercial marketing and even online cannabis influencers. 

But now Germany is trying to turn the tide and become the first European Union member to legalise cannabis. The rest of Europe is keeping a close eye on developments with curiosity and disapproval, while the global cannabis industry anticipates a brand new market of around 80 million possible customers. Could these developments see a boost in the cannabis influencer culture in Germany and Europe as a whole? Maybe so, but it's not that straightforward due to EU red tape surrounding the whole legalisation issue.

The German cannabis laws roughly follow the Canadian model where they will use cannabis as a narcotic and create a state-licenced production, delivery and sales system; where adults will be permitted to have a set limit for personal use and there will be a federal cannabis tax. Germany is savvy enough to understand that legalisation is the key to unlocking over 1 billion euros per year in taxes.

What is the EU's problem with Cannabis?

The EU's drug policies are founded on the 1961 UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which forces members to take any actions required to restrict cannabis growing, importation, consumption and sale rigidly for medical and scientific purposes only. In light of this, Germany’s loophole to legalise relies upon them not importing cannabis. Instead, it expects to utilise a 1988 UN convention, which permits the decriminalisation of personal use and home growing in concurrence with a 1994 German Constitutional Court ruling that states it cannot meddle in personal drug use as long as no one is at risk of harm.

Germany is not the first EU member state to attempt to legalise cannabis.  Luxembourg announced plans to regulate the cannabis market back in 2018, only to scale things back to the decriminalisation of home-grown plants for personal use in 2021. Also in 2021, Malta became the first European country to approve the legalisation of recreational cannabis and non-profit cannabis clubs that are permitted to service up to 500 members. This gives Germany further reasonable cover to assert that they are remaining within the boundaries of European law and makes it the key to unlocking a wider recreational market across Europe and with that the kind of advertising and commercialism that you see in the US and Canada.

Why is Germany so Important for European Cannabis Reform?

“Germany is a game-changer, because of the size of the market, but also because it is the first country to propose a state-licensed, full-legal market with sales distribution systems. Germany’s market size also makes it an extremely attractive country for cannabis startups, as domestic medical marijuana companies become more interesting to foreign investors looking to capitalize on a multi-billion dollar recreational market". Stephen Murphy, founder of Prohibition Partners, a European Cannabis market research firm in Germany is the key to unlocking a recreational European market.

The power Germany has is their main and most attractive argument, if Germany can successfully overcome the EU bureaucracy then there is little doubt that shortly several other countries could follow their example. This includes  Luxembourg, Netherlands, Malta, Denmark and Portugal.” If this happens then we may see a dramatic shift in the visibility of cannabis as another commercial entity like alcohol and with it we should see the rise of more cannabis ambassadors and online influencers.

More from Soft Secrets:

Germany to Legalise Cannabis in April

Czech Republic to Follow Germany

Germany Revise Reform Plans

Will UK Follow Malta?

Liz Filmer