Germany Waters Down Cannabis Liberalization After EU Meeting

liberalization
German flags waving in the wind at famous Reichstag building, seat of the German Parliament (Deutscher Bundestag), on a sunny day with blue sky and clouds, central Berlin Mitte district, Germany

Germany‘s cannabis liberalization plans will not be as comprehensive as folks hoped. At least for now, Amsterdam-style coffee shops may be a pipe dream after talks with the EU. Instead, the Associated Press reports that the watered-down plan will use state-controlled non-profit social clubs. If you’re a German resident at least 18 years old, you can join one and purchase up to 25 grams per day (or up to 50 grams per month). However, if you’re in the 18-21 age bracket, that figure is limited to 30 grams for adults under age 21. 

Germany has allowed the sale of cannabis for medical patients since 2017. The cannabis liberalization plan is one of many social reform projects proposed by socially liberal German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s three-party governing coalition planned to instate when taking office in December 2021.

Additionally, these cannabis clubs have a set maximum of 500 members each. The clubs can grow their own cannabis for their members to enjoy. Individuals can also grow, but it is limited to three plants per person. You’re only allowed to join one club, and authorities can limit the number of clubs that exist. The clubs’ expenses will be covered by membership fees, on a sliding scale, depending on how much cannabis the members use.

German officials also plan to set up regional test projects to sell cannabis through “commercial supply chains,” Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said. The finished proposal is a watered-down one that was initially proposed in October, which would allow the sale of cannabis to adults all across the country at licensed ships.

German ministers say that the scaled-back plan for liberalization results from restrictions established by the EU. Not everyone is ready to embrace the brave new world of cannabis legalization. Just as it is across the pond in the U.S., Conservative politicians oppose cannabis liberalization, saying loosening restrictions is dangerous, the BBC reports. For example, the Bavarian Premier Markus Söder tweeted that legalizing drugs was “simply the wrong path to go down,” adding that “drug clubs” did not solve any problems but created new ones. As a result, in a relatable outcome, Germany had to compromise. 

While Germany’s new cannabis plan is not a pro-cannabis advocate’s ideal outcome, it’s still a big step in the right direction. Twenty-five grams is nearly an ounce of cannabis. The intention of liberalizing Germany’s cannabis laws is to try and stop the black market. However, the country would be advised to look at places such as California, where the illegal market continues to flourish due to government red tape and high entry barriers into the legal market. If any country or state truly wants to eliminate illicit weed, it would be best served to create a realistic plan that meets consumers’ desires. 

The scaled-back plan comes after meetings with the European Union’s (EU) executive commission. The Associated Press reports that Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir said EU law “sets us limits we must respect, but that I will also say we are pushing.” Özdemir also noted that the draft of the legislation will be finalized this month and that “consumption will become legal this year already.” The next step is to implement five-year tests of regulated commercial supply chains in select regions which remain to be chosen. 

The plans still need to obtain the approval of the German parliament’s lower house (officials said an endorsement is unnecessary from the upper house). That chamber represents Germany’s 16 state governments, including the country’s primary and more conservative center-right opposition bloc, which opposes liberalizing cannabis laws. However, the health minister argued that Germany’s existing policies have failed and added that their goal is to create safer products. “We are not creating a problem,” Lauterbach said. “We are trying to solve a problem.”

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