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New German Government Plans to Legalize Cannabis

· Nov 22, 2021
The election brought down the Christian Democratic Union, which had led the government under Chancellor Angela Merkle for 16 years. Representatives of the center-left Social Democrats Party (S ...

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Politicians forming Germany’s new government have agreed to a plan to legalize cannabis use by adults and provide for regulated marijuana sales, according to media reports last week. The plan for the legalization of cannabis in Germany comes following September’s election for the Bundestag, the nation’s federal parliament.

The election brought down the Christian Democratic Union, which had led the government under Chancellor Angela Merkle for 16 years. Representatives of the center-left Social Democrats Party (SPD), which garnered the most votes in the federal election, are now negotiating with leaders of the environmentalist Green Party and the Free Democrats (FDP) to form a ruling coalition and establish a new government.

Last week, newspaper publisher Funke Mediengruppe reported that negotiators for the three parties had agreed to a plan to legalize cannabis in Germany that includes regulated retail sales to adults.

“We’re introducing the controlled distribution of cannabis to adults for consumption in licensed stores,” an unidentified spokesperson for the coalition said. “This will control the quality, prevent the transfer of contaminated substances and guarantee the protection of minors. We will evaluate the law after four years for social impact.”

The announcement seems to confirm a report earlier this month that representatives of the parties were including cannabis legalization in their discussions to establish the ruling coalition.

“Negotiators for the Social Democrats, Greens and pro-business Free Democrats are hammering out the details, including conditions under which the sale and use of recreational cannabis would be allowed and regulated, according to people familiar with the talks, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private,” Bloomberg wrote on Nov. 10.

Both the Green party and the FDP have called for cannabis to be legalized in Germany for recreational purposes for years. And in its party platform for this year’s election, the SPD characterized cannabis as a “social reality,” according to a report by the Independent, and advocated for an “appropriate political way of dealing with this.” The coalition government still must be formalized and a new chancellor to replace Merkle, who declined to run for reelection to the Bundestag, must be named before reforms can be put into place, however.

Germany legalized cannabis for medical purposes in 1998, and in 2017 expanded the program to cover more patients, permit domestic production, and relax rules on the importation and exportation of cannabis products to and from other countries. But a bill to legalize recreational marijuana failed last year after the ruling coalition failed to support it.

Avihu Tamir, CEO and founder U.K.-based medical cannabis company Kanabo Group, said that cannabis legalization in Germany, Europe’s most populated country, could energize efforts at reform throughout the continent. Although the Netherlands has a long-held policy of tolerating cannabis use and sales and Luxembourg passed legislation allowing personal cultivation and use of cannabis last month, most of the European Union continues to maintain prohibitionist policies toward non-medical uses of marijuana.

“Germany’s decision to legalize cannabis is not just a game-changer for Germany, but a gamechanger for all of Europe,” Tamir told Cannabis Now in an email. “Even before the deal is finalized, countries across the EU will begin their own process toward legalization as they race to catch up and reap the financial rewards that legalization will offer.”

With only medicinal uses of cannabis legalized so far, Germany is already Europe’s largest market for legal cannabis. And if the country expands reform to include recreational use, the economic impact could be a tempting reason for other nations to follow suit.

“Some reports predict the cannabis market in Germany could add around 3.4 billion euros in tax revenue to the nation’s economy every year,” said Tamir. “The legal cannabis market in Europe is predicted to be worth 3.2 billion euros by 2025 – but this move by Germany could see that increase. At that level of revenue, and at a time when countries edge closer to more lockdowns and the hit to economies that will follow, this is a no brainer for governments and leaders.”

But not all Germans are ready to take the step of cannabis legalization. When news broke last month that the incoming coalition was considering legalizing cannabis, Oliver Malchow, the head of the GdP German police union (GdP), told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung that he could not support the plan.

“There must finally be an end to trivializing the joint,” said Malchow, adding that the country already sees enough trouble from “legal but dangerous” alcohol. It does not make sense, he argued, to “open the door to another dangerous and often trivialized drug” such as cannabis.

And Rainer Wendt, the chairman of Germany’s second police officer’s union DPolG, said that legalizing cannabis will lead to an increase in traffic collisions.

“It would be the beginning of a stoned future instead of the launch of a modern Germany,” he said.