For more than a year, Germany’s federal government has been preparing for the legalization of adult use cannabis.
Now, as its legislation nears the finish line, the health committee of the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, held a hearing this week during which dozens of stakeholders shared perspectives, both for and against legalization.
Monday’s agenda had two main components: a discussion of the government’s draft law, and a counterproposal from the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, the country’s Christian Democratic parties. This group opposes legalization, and instead is calling for increased education and prevention measures.
The bill, which had its first reading in parliament in October, would legalize personal possession and use, as well as home cultivation of up to three plants. It would also allow for cannabis clubs with up to 500 members. This bill covers the first phase of the federal government’s two-phased approach to legalization, as Cannabis Wire has reported. This first phase is expected to take effect in early 2024, while the next phase, which would allow for a system of regulated sales, will require its own legislation. A date for the rollout of the second phase has not been set.
Opposition on Monday came largely from medical groups, such as the German Medical Association, as well as from law enforcement. The medical groups argued primarily that legalization would negatively affect Germany’s youth as it would increase access. On the law enforcement front, groups like the German Association of Judges also argued that youth use would increase, and suggested that illegal activity would increase, for example, because the cannabis clubs would be used as cover for illegal operations.
However, another group of judges and prosecutors, the New Association of Judges, supported legalization, arguing that penalizing personal use “can no longer be justified.” However, they noted that several areas of the bill, mostly around violations, need clarity.
Other supporters of the bill also noted areas for improvement. The Cannabis Industry Association, for example, flagged that the bill’s distance requirements for cannabis consumption would negatively affect patients by limiting where patients can consume. They also argue that the federal government’s goal of eliminating the illegal market won’t be achieved without allowing for more cannabis businesses, beyond the proposed membership club approach.
Many of these arguments for and against legalization are similar to the ones made when the government’s push first kicked off last summer. Ahead of drafting the bill, the government held a consultation process with more than 200 invited stakeholders from more than a half dozen countries. Just as that process informed the legislation, so, too, did feedback from the European Commission, which informed the two-phased approach.
Germany’s first phase is similar to the approach of other countries in Europe. Malta, for example, also chose to go with cannabis clubs for adults, though, unlike Germany, has no plans for opening up regulated sales.