Germany to make History by fully Legalizing Cannabis
Learn how the government plans to bring cannabis legally to its citizens.
Not unlike the United States, several of the European Union’s twenty-seven member states have embraced some type of cannabis reform. Italy has legalized medical cannabis and personal cultivation, and a referendum next year could decriminalize personal use and possession nationally. And of course, the Netherlands has famously decriminalized cannabis and countenances a quasi-legal market through its coffeeshops. But few jurisdictions have gone as far as US states like California or Massachusetts in fully licensing and regulating a legal cannabis market. However, the newly formed coalition government in Germany intends to do just that next year, as it recently declared this November. Long resisted by Angela Merkel during her time as Chancellor of Germany, the move to legalize cannabis for the nation’s 83 million citizens would make it the second-largest cannabis market in the world (presuming Mexico beats it to the finish line with its own initiative), easily besting Canada, Uruguay and the individual adult-use US states.
While Germany has legalized medical cannabis on the books since 2017, and consumption of narcotics themselves is decriminalized, a legalized, regulated market is a major step forward for the country. The reasons cited for the move include public safety and acknowledgement of the larger shifts taking place globally around cannabis. As incoming finance minister Christian Lindner recently said to Der Spiegel, “We have to learn as a society to deal with cannabis responsibly. The rules up until now have not contributed to that learning process.”
A NEW BROOM
The initiative for cannabis legalization is spearheaded by Germany’s new governing coalition: the Social Democratic Party of Germany, the Free Democratic Party and the Greens. Advance word from the parties emphasized the benefits of a controlled supply, taxed by the state, which can funnel the proceeds into educational programs for minors, adolescents and pregnant women as well as addiction programs. And apparently, there’s a lot of euros to be made in this legal market. In an interview with CNBC, Alexander Galitsa of the investment bank Hauck and Aufhauser, he estimated the annual tax revenue at €3.4 billion to €4.7 billion, with another 27,000 jobs to be created in the new cannabis economy. Soon after the news was announced, shares of the Munich-based cannabis company SynBiotic, which creates cannabinoid-based solutions for conditions like chronic pain and sleep, went up sharply.
The bill to open the new market has only been outlined in broad strokes. Advertising for cannabis companies would be severely restricted. And the legalization program would be assessed after four years to determine the social impact. Such positions may be necessary to get more of the country’s populace onboard. The Christian Social Union, the Bavarian equivalent of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, has already come out against the bill, as have the country’s police unions. The New York Times cited a study that found that only 30% of those polled agreed with ending cannabis prohibition, while 59% believed that cannabis should remain a medical drug. (This, however, may mean so much — in 2013, a poll taken in Uruguay found that only 28% wanted cannabis legalization at the time and Uraguy legalized anyway). A later Civey poll found support evenly split at around 43% between pro and con, with younger people favoring legalization in greater numbers than their seniors.
Germany’s larger harm reduction program — the coalition also intends to permit drug-checking services that would screen people’s drugs for impurities, similar to a program passed by the New Zealand government this year — also informs the endeavor. One of the key proponents of legalization amongst the Social Democrats describes himself as a former prohibitionist who has changed his mind because of the spectre of heroin-laced cannabis on the streets.
Before Germans can purchase cannabis legally, the three parties must formally approve the plan and draft a bill. Afterwards, it must pass through Germany’s Parliament, and finally make its way through the gauntlet of the United Nations and the European Union’s drug laws. Germany may be beaten to the punch by Luxembourg, whose Parliament may vote on legalization early next year. In addition, Mexico’s Senate at press time, was preparing to vote on a cannabis legalization package by December 15th.
Businesses in the cannabis industry are optimistic about the prospects for change in the EU. Tilray has focused on entering into Portugal and Germany, and Aurora continues to push its global exports. For not only will Germany most likely rely on imported cannabis due to its suboptimal growing environments, but it will also potentially serve as the first domino to fall in continent-wide legalization. At least, that’s the expectation.