Germany has just completed a major step toward the legalization of cannabis for adults.
June 30 marked the end of a consultation process that included more than 200 invited stakeholders from more than a half dozen countries, with the aim of informing legislation that could be drafted and released by the end of 2022. If an adult use legalization and regulation bill is signed into law, Germany will become the world’s largest legal cannabis market.
Burkhard Blienert, the government’s drugs commissioner who spearheaded the effort, said on the final day of the consultation that the process produced “exactly the valuable input” that he had hoped for.
Each of the five hearings focused on a specific area of cannabis policy and regulation, including, in order: “health and consumer protection;” “protection of minors and prevention;” “supply chains, ecological and economic issues;” “criminal liability, control measures and licensing to accompany the introduction of the controlled sale of cannabis for recreational purposes;” and “international experiences.”
The first and second hearings primarily included entities within Germany focused on addiction, mental health, and youth services. Georg Wurth of the German Hemp Association spoke against limiting cannabis product THC levels or types, and against sales in pharmacies, but in favor of personal cultivation. On the other end of the spectrum, Maja Wegner of BAJ, an association of youth groups, called for a ban on cannabis advertising and marketing.
The third and fourth hearings included many of the same entities as the first two, but included some new ones with topical expertise, like the World Wide Fund For Nature to talk about environmental issues and supply chains, and DPolG, a police group, to talk about law enforcement.
Only the fifth hearing was open to the public. At its start, Blienert told attendees and participants that they were making history. And, he explained the rationale for the government’s pursuit of cannabis reforms: criminalization has not reduced consumption, which has increased, and instead has made it more difficult to protect consumers. The new approach seeks to create a regulated supply for adults while curbing youth access and eliminating the illegal market.
Among the keynote speakers were regulators from jurisdictions where cannabis is legal for medical or adult use, like Colorado, Malta, and South Africa, as well as researchers, including those from the United Nations.
As the first jurisdiction in the world to launch adult use sales, Colorado provides a unique lens into what has and hasn’t worked, but also serves as an example of how far regulations have come in a decade. Dominique Mendiola, the senior director of the Marijuana Enforcement Division within Colorado’s Department of Revenue, emphasized that regulations must adapt and evolve. For example, only after several headline-making incidents involving edibles did regulators move to require sectioned serving sizes and to initiate public education on how edibles affect consumers differently than inhaled products.
Malta serves as a contrast to the approach taken in the U.S. There, in December, as Cannabis Wire reported, President George Vella signed into law a bill that makes it legal for adults to grow up to four plants at home and to form cannabis clubs where members can cultivate and distribute cannabis among themselves. These clubs must be not-for-profit, whereas the for-profit approach has taken hold in the U.S.
For a global perspective, Angela Me of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime shared some of the findings from the UN’s 2022 World Drug Report, published in late June. For the first time, as Cannabis Wire reported, the report includes an overview of legalization outcomes in the jurisdictions where reform has taken place, and of the environmental impacts of cultivation.
After the keynotes on the final day of hearings, there were two panels: one on “health, consumer and youth protection” and one on “cultivation, supply chains, taxation, licensing.” And, there were workshops with drug policy experts from groups like RAND and the Transform Drug Policy Foundation.