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German Officials Unveil Revised Plan To Legalize Marijuana



Top German health officials have unveiled a revised plan to legalize marijuana nationwide.

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach and Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture Cem Özdemir released the updated legalization framework on Wednesday, sharing details about the proposal during a press conference.

“The previous cannabis policy has failed,” Lauterbach said. “Now we have to go new ways.”

The new plan seeks to provide for “the controlled delivery of cannabis to adults within clear limits,” he said, adding that “we want to fight the black market [and] we want to push back drug-related crime.”

Özdemir, for his part, said that “the use of cannabis is a social reality.”

“Decades of prohibition policies have turned a blind eye to this and have primarily caused problems,” he said.

The plan represents a scaling back of the legalization framework that the government had initially announced last year. While there would be limited sales components, there wouldn’t be a country-wide commercial cannabis market as originally envisioned.

Instead, the government is looking to allow adults to possess up to 25 grams of marijuana and grow up to three flowering plants for personal use, while permitting nonprofit cannabis “clubs” with a maximum of 500 members where growers could distribute products similar to those in Spain and Malta.

Adults over 21 years of age would see a purchase limit of 50 grams a month via the clubs, and sales to adults between 18 and 21 would be limited to a total of 30 grams within a month.

The government’s plan says there would be a limit on THC content, though the specifics are to be clarified later, and there would be a ban on advertising for the associations or for cannabis in general.

On-site consumption would not be allowed at the clubs, though they could distribute up to seven seeds or five cuttings per month to each member to be used in their own home cultivation.

Further, the plan would involve authorizing dispensaries in “certain districts/cities in several federal states” throughout Germany that would be licensed for five years, giving officials an opportunity to study the impact of the shops on consumption trends and the illicit market. The localities would need to opt in to allowing the stores to operate.

The government’s new framework also says that convictions for activity made legal could be “deleted from the federal central register upon application” and that ongoing cases will be dropped.

Minors caught with marijuana will need to participate in “mandatory” intervention and prevention programs.

While the plan says that importing cannabis seeds from other countries to start up grows at the clubs “is being examined,” it also says that “there is a ban on the import or export of recreational cannabis.”

Germany will seek sign-off on that sales aspect of the bill from the European Union (EU). The possession and home grow language would not be subject to the body’s review.

The government said that it is “continuing its efforts (particularly through the missions abroad) to promote its approaches to its European partners” and is also examining how EU member states can press to make relevant international laws “more flexible and developed.”

Formal legislation detailing the government’s previously announced framework was initially set to be released by the end of the first quarter of 2023, but that timeline was extended “due to scheduling reasons” as officials worked to revise it in order to avoid a potential conflict with international laws.

On Wednesday, the ministers suggested a formal bill to carry out the social clubs part of the newly scaled back framework could come later this month, with legalization going into effect sometime “this year.” The draft law for the regional commercial sales pilot programs would come at a later, unspecified date.

Under the earlier framework that the government had released with the coalition’s backing last year, adults 18 and older could have purchased and possessed 20-30 grams of marijuana at federally licensed stores and possibly pharmacies.

They could have also grown up to three plants for personal use, with rules on enclosing them to prevent youth access.

All ongoing criminal proceedings related to offenses made legal under the reform would have been suspended and closed upon implementation.

Marijuana would have been subject to the country’s sales tax, and the plan called for an additional “special consumption tax.” However, it didn’t specify that number, instead arguing that it should be set at a rate that’s competitive with the illicit market.

Lawmakers who have pushed the government for far-reaching cannabis legalization policies reacted mostly positively to Wednesday’s announcement, though some did point out areas they’d like to see improved.

Kristine Lütke of the FDP, for example, said the framework “is a great first step” but that it is “too restrictive” with respect to THC limits and edibles, and that there should be more widespread allowance of commercial sales throughout the country.

Kirsten Kappert-Gonther of the Green Party also decried the lack of “a clear commitment to edibles,” noting that they “contribute to harm reduction compared to inhalation.”

Lauterbach said last month that German officials had received “very good feedback” from the EU on the prior reform framework and would be making revisions to the plan before formally introducing a bill in the legislature.

Germany’s Federal Cabinet approved the initial framework for a legalization measure late last year, but the government wanted to get sign-off from the EU to ensure that enacting the reform wouldn’t put them in violation of their international obligations.

The framework was the product of months of review and negotiations within the German administration and the country’s “traffic light” coalition government. Officials took a first step toward legalization last summer, kicking off a series of hearings meant to help inform legislation to end prohibition in the country.

A group of German lawmakers, as well as Narcotics Drugs Commissioner Burkhard Blienert, visited California and toured cannabis businesses last year to inform their country’s approach to legalization.

The visit came about two months 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 last year found majority support for legalization in several key European countries, including Germany.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based managing editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.


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