In late 2021, Germany’s new coalition government – popularly dubbed ‘the traffic light government’ – caused a stir when it revealed plans to legalise cannabis. But this wasn’t like other announcements we have seen in Europe in recent years. This time, it was clear that there would be a drive to push through legislation as quickly as possible.
Now, less than a year later, we can see that this plan has not been abandoned. Even with the ongoing war in Ukraine and a cost of living crisis, the German government remains determined to get the job done – maybe even before the end of the year. This has been made clear in recent weeks as experts from the cannabis industry have come together with lawmakers to hold talks over what the new market could look like.
So, what do we know so far?
A couple of weeks ago, on June 13th, Germany’s Commissioner for Addiction and Drug Issues Burkhard Blienert officially announced the first of five expert hearings that will likely determine the legislative process toward cannabis legalisation. These hearings will focus on a number of factors, including health and consumer protection and the protection of minors, supply chains, economic and ecological issues, criminal liability, production, and licensing.
As these hearings are yet to conclude, we are still uncertain of a lot of the details. One thing is for sure, though: Germany will legalise adult-use recreational cannabis.
While lawmakers and advocates are hoping that the details will be agreed upon by the end of 2022, it is likely that full implementation won’t come for at least another year or two. Nonetheless, this major move is likely to have an impact, not only on recreational cannabis consumers but on medical cannabis patients and CBD users, too.
An Adult-Use Market in Germany
As we touched upon in our recent summary of cannabis in Europe, Germany is one of a number of countries in Eastern Europe to be exploring the legalisation of recreational cannabis. From these examples, and other models from around the world, it is clear that cannabis legalisation can mean a number of things – that is, there is no single model to follow.
Take the Netherlands, for example. Long famed for its relaxed approach to cannabis, with tourists and locals alike flocking to enjoy the country’s coffeeshops. Cannabis products can be freely bought from licensed premises here – and yet, the drug is still technically illegal. In contrast, Luxembourg’s plan of action when it comes to cannabis legalisation will likely restrict the sale of cannabis products to tourists.
Furthermore, while the Netherlands currently operates a model of sale but no supply, other countries have opted for just the opposite. For example, in Spain the use and production of cannabis is widely permitted, while the sale remains prohibited. This works through the creation of cannabis social clubs. These member-only clubs allow a collective to cultivate and consume a shared supply of cannabis.
Finally, there are the models that allow both the production and sale of cannabis. This has been seen largely across the Americas, where Uruguay and Canada became the first countries in the world to legalise adult-use recreational cannabis. In these markets, licensed companies and in some cases, individual consumers, are permitted to cultivate cannabis plants. The products made from these crops, including flower, extracts, edibles, and topicals, can then be sold on to the consumer.
So, which of these models is Germany likely to adopt?
Well, according to early reports from and details shared by the country’s government, Germany will likely implement a legalisation model similar to those seen in North America. This would include the legal sale of cannabis in licensed shops, as well as a licensing process for the domestic production of recreational products. However, for now, the exact approach that will be taken by German lawmakers is yet to be revealed. As Commissioner Burkhard Blienert puts it: “We want a model that fits Germany.”
The government has made clear that it plans to place a particular focus on quality and consumer protection – particularly that of minors. How this is to be achieved is expected to be more clearly understood as the government hearings progress this year. Other aspects of the new legal market that are yet to be confirmed include cannabis taxation, advertising restrictions and product pricing.
Other implications of cannabis legalisation
In addition to the obvious changes that will be brought about by the legalisation of adult-use cannabis, this landmark move is also likely to affect other areas of the cannabis industry – namely, the medical cannabis and CBD sectors.
Medical Cannabis in Germany
Germany approved the legalistion of medical cannabis in 2016 and has since become the largest medical cannabis market in Europe. However, as we touched upon in our recent article, patient access has remained relatively low. Evidence suggests that the low prescription rates are likely down to a lack of doctors who are willing to prescribe – likely due to a lack of awareness of the medicines and fear of misinterpreting guidelines.
As wider legalisation takes hold, however, it is possible that these issues will begin to be resolved. The legalisation of medical cannabis has already done a lot to change public opinion of cannabis – as not just a recreational drug but a promising medical product. Many will be hoping that this latest reform will go even further, refining medical education around the plant and improving patient access to cannabis-based medicines.
Impact on the CBD Industry
Another cannabis-related industry that has taken off in Germany (and around the world) in recent years, is CBD. By now, the majority of people will have heard of this cannabinoid, thanks to the abundance of businesses and brands that have popped up over the last decade or so. Pont Europe reported earlier this year that Germany’s “progressive politics and immense purchasing power” has put the country on track to become the most profitable CBD market in the world. So, will adult-use cannabis legalisation have any impact at all?
Well, it stands to reason that expansion of the domestic cannabis industry will only accelerate this growth. Cultivators and manufacturers will likely face fewer hurdles – particularly when compared to other European countries where prohibition remains in place. Nonetheless, the specifics are, as yet, still to be determined.
While it is difficult to predict the exact approach that will be taken toward cannabis legalisation in Germany, one thing is for sure: this new market will be unlike anything Europe has seen yet.