5 things to know about Germany’s push to legalize cannabis – POLITICAL

Let the cannabis lobby begin.

The German health ministry will host stakeholder talks on the legalization of recreational cannabis this week, with the aim of presenting a strategy for doing so in the fall.

While Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats only wanted to decriminalize cannabis – which would only allow possession – his coalition partners, the Greens and the Liberals, campaigned during the 2021 elections to fully legalize recreational cannabis, which would allow its possession, cultivation, trade and transport.

Eventually, the junior partners prevailed, leading to the creation of a coalition agreement in favor of recreational legalization.

Now they have to deliver it. Although Germany legalized medical cannabis in 2016, many questions still need to be answered before the first joint can be legally sold to recreational consumers.

Burkhard Blienert, the The German Narcotics Commissioner will hold a series of five talks with over 200 stakeholders, including addiction doctors, cannabis associations and international experts. The results will be presented later this month, setting the stage for the legalization strategy expected in the fall.

As Germany prepares to leave, here’s what you need to know.

Who will be able to sell it?

Currently, only pharmacies can sell medical cannabis in Germany, and according to them, that shouldn’t change for recreational cannabis.

“If cannabis is to be sold in pharmacies for the purpose of consumption, then it should only be sold in pharmacies,” the Federal Association of German Pharmacists said in a written statement. “With different distribution channels, it will be difficult to apply uniform and high standards of consumer protection.”

Not everyone agrees. “Pharmacies are there to sell medicines. Otherwise, as a result, they should also include beer and cigarettes in their assortment,” said Georg Wurth of the German Hemp Association.

According to the coalition agreement, cannabis should be distributed in “licensed shops”. But what qualifies as a licensed store has not yet been defined. Big players will certainly push to enter the retail market, which will grow from 20 tons of medical cannabis to 400 tons of medical and recreational cannabis per year, according to a study. .

At the moment, only less potent products such as CBD oils can be sold outside pharmacies.

Who will be able to buy it?

The coalition agreement makes it clear that cannabis is not for children or adolescents. “Only adults should have access to cannabis shops,” said Kirsten Kappert-Gonther, deputy chair of the health committee in parliament. “We must keep minimum distances from schools and youth centers” to protect minors, she added.

The Federal Association of German Pharmacists goes one step further and calls for “adequate regulations … to limit consumption by adolescents and young adults”.

The German Medical Association agrees: “From a medical point of view, an age limit of at least 21 years (preferably older; +25 years of age) makes sense,” reads a written statement.

How will it be regulated?

To ensure that marijuana sold in Germany is safe, not only do there need to be trusted vendors and suppliers, but strains need to be regulated as well. Cannabis contains over 400 substances, the two best known being THC and CBD. In particular, THC is responsible for the intoxicating effect of cannabis and can vary greatly between strains.

“As far as the data can show, high THC levels (over 20%) are associated with significantly greater health risks, such as psychotic reactions, than cannabis with low THC concentrations,” said the German Medical Association. . Therefore, they recommend a THC limit of 10% to 15%.

As for the supply, “the Dutch model is not a model for Germany,” Blienert said in February. The Dutch authorized the sale of cannabis in coffee shops in 1976, but did not allow legal and controlled sourcing. Blienert doesn’t want it for Germany. “We have to keep an eye on the entire supply chain … from cultivation to trade to sale,” she said.

Where will it come from?

Currently, Germany only allows the cultivation of cannabis under very strict conditions. The plant must be grown in bunker-like buildings according to high security guidelines.

However, “it is neither sensible nor sustainable to grow hemp and cannabis exclusively in indoor plantations behind thick concrete walls,” said Kappert-Gonther. So once cannabis is legalized, these rules could be relaxed to create better growing conditions in Germany to cover demand.

Some German states allow the import of cannabis as long as it meets certain criteria. And if that cannabis is refined in Germany, it can already be sold today as medical cannabis.

The Hemp Association is also calling for home-grown marijuana to be legalized: “There is no point in prosecuting consumers for some cannabis plants, while pounds of weed are passed over the counter every day in the shop next door,” Wurth said.

Are there any legal obstacles?

By legalizing recreational cannabis, Germany risks violating international law.

The 1961 United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs bans Germany from legalizing recreational cannabis, as it prohibits states from growing and trafficking cannabis outside of medical or scientific purposes. To avoid breaking the law, Berlin would first have to withdraw from the convention, which could take up to a year.

Alternatively, Germany could choose to ignore the convention, like Canada, which to date has not been sanctioned for its cannabis policy, despite repeated reprimands from the International Narcotics Control Board.

The EU could also create roadblocks. A ruling by the Court of Justice of the EU explicitly states that Member States should prevent the sale of cannabis. This could create a particular problem for Germany, which wants state-licensed shops and supply chains, unlike the Netherlands, which decriminalized recreational cannabis but has not fully legalized it.

Some German politicians might even throw a wrench in the works. While a law to legalize recreational cannabis may have a harder time gaining approval from the Bundestag, where pro-legalization parties hold the majority, it may have a harder time going through the Bundesrat, which represents German states at the federal level.

The center-right Christian Democrats hold a blocking majority there. Their leader, Friedrich Merz, said in December that “hashish is the gateway drug to addiction.”

If Blienert and the coalition fail to reach a compromise with the CDU, he could prove to be a veritable show-stopper.

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