Germany’s plans to legalise cannabis for recreational use have been revised following discussions with EU officials. The proposal to allow the drug to be sold across the country in licensed specialist shops has now been scaled back to a set number of pilot areas for the next five years.
Adults will still be allowed to grow up to three cannabis plants for personal use and possess up to 25g penalty-free, but will only be able to obtain the drug from licensed shops as part of a regional pilot project, health minister Karl Lauterbach announced. Germany’s government had agreed this after talks with the EU Commission, he said, although the aim remained to control quality, curb the black market, prevent the sale of contaminated drugs and ensure the ‘best possible protection for minors and health for consumers’.
Cultivation in non-profit associations or ‘cannabis clubs’ will also be allowed nationwide, provided membership is limited to a maximum of 500 people who are over 18 and resident in Germany. While there will be a general ban on advertising for the associations, ‘factual information is acceptable’. Specialist shops will then be established on a regional and time-limited model to allow the effects of a commercial supply chain on health, the black market and youth protection to be evaluated. Germany previously legalised cannabis for medical use in 2017.
The restrictive approach to cannabis in Germany had failed, added justice minister Marco Buschmann. ‘The prohibition of cannabis criminalises countless people, pushes them into criminal structures and ties up immense resources at the law enforcement agencies. It’s time for a new approach that allows more personal responsibility, pushes back the black market and relieves the police and prosecutors.’
The non-commercial supply models of home growing and not-for-profit associations avoided the ‘risks of over commercialisation’, said Transform, as well as the emergence of ‘Big Alcohol/Tobacco’-style monopolies and potential for ‘corporate capture’ of the policy making process. ‘On the other hand the absence of a regulated retail market inevitably means legal availability will be restricted and slower than it might have been – in turn meaning that the illegal market (and associated problems) will take longer to be eroded.’
Canada became the first G7 country to legalise and regulate recreational cannabis in 2018, with adults able to legally buy and possess up to 30g of the drug (www.drinkanddrugsnews.com/cannabis-becomes-legal-in-canada). The move has proved highly divisive, however, with critics claiming that the price and quality of the legal and taxed drug has meant its impact on the black market has been limited.