Germany to Legalize Marijuana in Days, After Lawmakers Reject Delay

    A bill to legalize marijuana in Germany will be implemented on schedule in April, with lawmakers representing individual states in the Bundesrat declining to refer the legislation to a mediation committee that would have meant setting back the timeline by six months.

    While the Bundestag passed the cannabis legalization measure in February, there were concerns among advocates that the Bundesrat, a body also known as the Federal Council, would vote to recommend the committee referral during a meeting on March 22.

    But that did not happen, meaning that the law, which will make possession and home cultivation legal and authorize social clubs that can distribute cannabis to members, will go into effect on April 1.

    To prevent the implementation delay, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, who has for months been the government’s lead on the cannabis plan, put forward a “protocol declaration” to the Federal Council ahead of the vote, aiming to address members’ outstanding concerns about issues such as youth prevention, reduced cultivation canopy sizes and zoning requirements for the social clubs.

    “The fight was worth it, legalization of cannabis is coming on Easter Monday!”

    While the protocol declaration that Lauterbach put forward is not legally binding, the strategy ultimately worked, as the body evidently accepted the arrangement and did not vote for the mediation referral.

    “The fight was worth it, legalization of cannabis is coming on Easter Monday!” Lauterbach wrote in a social media post on March 22. “Please use the new opportunity responsibly and help protect children and young people. Hopefully this is the beginning of the end for the black market today.”

    There was also an agreement to give state regulators additional flexibility with respect to monitoring cannabis social clubs, RND reported.

    Meanwhile, Transport Minister Volker Wissing of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) is calling for another change to the law by relaxing the zero-tolerance THC limit for impaired driving.

    Lawmakers from the three parties that make up Germany’s coalition government cheered the news that legalization will not be delayed.

    “We did it! Prohibition is over!” Green MP Kirsten Kappert-Gonther wrote. “On April 1, 2024, we will make history and, together with the federal states, end the prohibition of #Cannabis, thereby enabling more youth and health protection.”

    Carmen Wegge of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) wrote, “In 10 days cannabis will be legal & the criminalization of millions of people in the country will end. Thank you to everyone who worked on this law.”

    “The second pillar of the law must now come in as quickly as possible … commercial cultivation in regional [pilots] and the sale of cannabis in licensed shops.”

    “On April 1, we will strengthen the individual freedom of everyone and ensure a paradigm shift in drug policy,” Kristine Lütke of the Free Democratic Party wrote.

    But she added that the work on cannabis reform is not done. “The second pillar of the law must now come in as quickly as possible and thus commercial cultivation in regional model projects and the sale of cannabis in licensed shops,” she said, referring to a planned follow-up bill to allow a more traditional system of commercial marijuana retailers.

    The Bundesrat previously tried to block the proposed reform in September, but ultimately failed.

    February’s floor vote in the Bundestag came weeks after leaders of the coalition government announced that they’d reached a final agreement on the legalization bill, resolving outstanding concerns, primarily from the SPD.

    A final Bundestag vote on the legalization bill that was initially planned in December was ultimately called off amid concerns from SPD leaders.

    Lawmakers had already delayed their first debate on the legislation, which was ultimately held in October, ostensibly due to the conflict in Israel and Palestine. They also pushed back a vote scheduled for November as supporters worked on improvements to the bill.

    At a meeting in December, the health minister took questions from members, some of whom oppose legalization. At several points, he pushed back against lawmakers who suggested that legalization would send the wrong message to youth and lead to increased underage consumption, saying their arguments “misrepresented” the legislation.

    Social clubs where members can obtain cannabis should open in July.

    Lawmakers also previously made a raft of adjustments to the bill, mostly designed to loosen restrictions that faced opposition from advocates and supporters in the Bundestag. They included increasing home possession maximums and removing the possibility of jail time for possessing slightly more than the allowable limit.

    The legislators further agreed to stagger the implementation of the reform, planning to make possession and home cultivation legal for adults beginning in April. Social clubs where members could obtain cannabis would open in July.

    Officials are eventually planning to introduce a complementary second measure that would establish pilot programs for commercial sales in cities throughout the country. That legislation is expected to be unveiled after it’s submitted to the European Commission for review.

    While Germany’s Federal Cabinet approved the initial framework for a legalization measure in late 2022, the government also said it wanted to get signoff from the European Union to ensure that enacting the reform wouldn’t put them in violation of their international obligations.

    The framework was the product of months of review and negotiations within the German administration and the “traffic light” coalition government. Officials took a first step toward legalization in 2022, kicking off a series of hearings meant to help inform legislation to end prohibition in the country.

    A 2022 survey found majority support for legalization in several key European countries, including Germany.

    Government officials from multiple countries, including the United States, also met in Germany in November to discuss international marijuana policy issues as the host nation worked to enact legalization.

    A group of German lawmakers, as well as Narcotics Drugs Commissioner Burkhard Blienert, had visited the US and toured California cannabis businesses in 2022 to inform their country’s approach to legalization.

    The visit came after top officials from Germany, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands held a first-of-its-kind meeting to discuss plans and challenges associated with adult-use legalization.

    Leaders of the coalition government said in 2021 that they had reached an agreement to end cannabis prohibition and enact regulations for a legal industry, and they first previewed certain details of that plan in 2023.

    A novel international survey, released in 2022, found majority support for legalization in several key European countries, including Germany.

    Meanwhile, the United Nations’ drug control body recently reiterated that it considers legalizing cannabis for non-medical, non-scientific purposes a violation of international treaties, though it also said it appreciates that Germany’s government scaled back its cannabis plan ahead of the recent vote.



    Photograph of the Bundestag by Nick Perretti via Flickr/Creative Commons 2.0

    This story was originally published by Marijuana Moment, which tracks the politics and policy of cannabis and drugs. Follow Marijuana Moment on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for its newsletter.

    • Kyle is Marijuana Moment‘s Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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