Germany Scales Back Plans for Cannabis Reform

Stephen Andrews
03 Apr 2023

German authorities will, for now, proceed with a lessened version of cannabis legalization. The move follows after the reform proposal was subjected for a review with the European Union (EU). The initial plan that Germany had was to launch legal cannabis sales all around the country.

German newspapers have reported that the country's officials are to alter the initial cannabis legalization plan in an effort to align with EU laws and regulations. 

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach confirmed there would be modifications in the plans in comments he made on Friday, March 31. He said he would be going back to the EU "soon" with a "good proposal" that protects public health as well as the safety of young people. 

The minister made a previous announcement in March that Germany has received "very good feedback" from the EU and it would be making revisions to the initial framework they've submitted for review. 

The new plan is reportedly a two-part model that will principally test legal sales at the regional level. The first part of the policy would allow limited cannabis sales in certain parts of Germany, similar to introducing regional pilot programs. The implementation of this phase will last for four years, and if the results are satisfying, sales will be extended to the rest of the country. It is understood that this part of the proposal will be submitted to the EU Commission for additional review. 

The second part of the policy allegedly does not need any approval from the EU, and it concerns homegrowing cannabis for personal use. The details for regulating homegrowing have not yet been fully disclosed. But there are talks that consumers will be allowed to possess up to around 20 grams of cannabis, with a cultivation limit set to two plants per household. Non-commercial growers will be most likely permitted to organize and distribute cannabis in a closed circle by opening cannabis clubs, which already function in other European countries like the Netherlands and Spain. 

Shortly before the details of the revised plan emerged over the weekend, the country's Social Democratic Party, which is part of the current German cabinet, expressed doubt about the revised legalization plan, saying it believed that "comprehensive legislation is obviously not feasible in the short term for reasons of European Law." 

Germany's Federal Cabinet agreed on an initial framework for a legalization measure at the end of 2022. However, the government insisted that it checks with the EU to avoid breaching any international legal obligations. 

The initial framework sought to allow adults aged 18 and above possession between 20 and 30 grams of marijuana on their person. It envisioned legal sales starting throughout the entire country, in licensed dispensaries and possibly pharmacies. The cultivation limit was initially set to three plants per household, with more rules on preventing those not of legal age from access to cannabis. 

Legalization would also introduce a "special consumption tax" in Germany, and it will seek to stop prosecution for offenses that will become legal under the new measure. 

Germany, the EU's largest economy, took the first steps towards legalization over the summer of 2022 when it started a series of hearings to inform on legislation and end cannabis prohibition in the country. 

German officials also participated in a joint meeting with officials from Malta, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands last year to discuss topics of cannabis legalization. The multilateral discussions are expected to continue in the future and could be expanded to include more members of the EU. The purpose of these meetings is to coordinate future cannabis regulations and address any resistance from the United Nations (UN), which continues to bar member states from legalizing marijuana.

Read more here on how the United Nation's International Narcotics Control Board criticized cannabis reform in its latest annual report. 

Stephen Andrews