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German Officials Under Pressure To Unveil Marijuana Legalization’s Second Step Focused On Commercial Sales



Now that marijuana is legal in Germany, lawmakers are turning their attention to the planned “second pillar” of the reform: establishing a pilot program for commercial sales. And while the timeline for introducing the complementary legislation is unclear, one key lawmaker says she’s hoping to see a draft emerge this summer.

Cannabis possession and cultivation for personal officially became legal on Monday, and social clubs where people could become members and obtain marijuana are due to launch in July. But so far, there are no definitive details about what the broader commercial pilot program could look like.

“Preparatory work on the second pillar of the cannabis laws is currently underway with the departments involved,” the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) told Tagesspiegel Background. But specifics about the plan “cannot be given at the moment.”

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, who has spearheaded the government’s cannabis legalization efforts, told members of the Bundestag in December that “we are currently examining” the commercial sales legislation. But with legalization now in effect, there’s increased pressure to expedite that process.

Kristine LĂĽtke of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) said that, while the first phase of reform represents “a paradigm shift towards a liberal drug policy,” she’s “convinced” of the need to establish a commercial program.

“I am counting on Karl Lauterbach’s commitment to address pillar two of cannabis legalization promptly and to present a corresponding draft,” she said.

LĂĽtke also recognized that the follow-up sales legislation could face stronger resistance in the Bundesrat representing individual states. Because dispensaries would be more visible and involve more complex policy considerations, the future legislation will likely be exposed to additional criticism and possible pushback.

The Bundesrat previously tried to block the now-enacted legalization proposal last September but ultimately failed.

Despite that, members of the Bundesrat ultimately reached a deal with Lauterbach and other government ministers and declined to refer the cannabis legislation to a mediation committee that would have delayed implementation by six months.

Kirsten Kappert-Gonther of the Green party said she agrees that the “second pillar is important in order to minimize the health risk for occasional users and to create alternatives to the black market.”

She added that “the legal framework conditions should be determined promptly.”

“It would be good if the BMG managed to present a draft law in the summer so that the states and other actors can be intensively involved in the consultation process,” she said. “This concern can be addressed with a legal basis for specialist shops.”

The commercial legalization legislation is also expected to be unveiled after its submitted to the European Commission for review.

While Germany’s Federal Cabinet approved the initial framework for a legalization measure in late 2022, the government also said it wanted to get signoff from the EU to ensure that enacting the reform wouldn’t put them in violation of their international obligations.

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Officials took a first step toward legalization in 2022, kicking off a series of hearings meant to help inform legislation to end prohibition in the country.

Government officials from multiple countries, including the U.S., also met in Germany last November to discuss international marijuana policy issues as the host nation works to enact legalization.

A group of German lawmakers, as well as Narcotics Drugs Commissioner Burkhard Blienert, separately visited the U.S. and toured California cannabis businesses in 2022 to inform their country’s approach to legalization.

The visit came after top officials from Germany, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands held a first-of-its-kind meeting to discuss plans and challenges associated with recreational marijuana legalization.

Leaders of the coalition government said in 2021 that they had reached an agreement to end cannabis prohibition and enact regulations for a legal industry, and they first previewed certain details of that plan last year.

A novel international survey that was released in 2022 found majority support for legalization in several key European countries, including Germany.

Meanwhile, the United Nations’s (UN) drug control body recently reiterated that it considers legalizing marijuana for non-medical or scientific purposes a violation of international treaties, though it also said it appreciates that Germany’s government scaled back its cannabis plan ahead of the recent vote.

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