After receiving positive feedback from the European Union, Germany’s goal of legalizing recreational cannabis is one step closer to fruition. The news is reenergizing Germany’s attempts to legalize recreational cannabis for adult use in the country. If Germany is successful, it will be the first European country to regulate the sale of legal cannabis products.
However, efforts to legalize cannabis in Germany are not without pushback. Several legal hurdles still exist even as Germany presses on with their agenda.
Germany’s Legalization Plan
In October, Germany outlined a plan to legalize recreational cannabis use for adults over 18. The initial form of the measure proposed several restrictions on cannabis possession, limiting the amount an individual could carry to 30 grams. The original plan would have allowed the home cultivation of up to two cannabis plants per household. It also sought to prohibit the marketing of cannabis products and mandate that recreational cannabis sold in Germany could only be grown and manufactured domestically. Cannabis would be available in licensed stores and possibly pharmacies, but there would be rules about their location. Dispensaries could not be near schools or other youth facilities.
The current 12-page framework expands the number of cannabis plants per household from two to three and provides an enclosure measure to keep children from accessing the plants.
Establishing the legal framework for legalizing cannabis can be challenging. German officials turned to California for help, touring cannabis businesses to help them form their approach to legalizing recreational cannabis. Local business leaders offered support and ideas to help inform German officials about cannabis “best practices.” These ideas helped form the foundation of Germany’s new cannabis legalization measure.
Unfortunately, there was a legal hurdle Germany had yet to overcome in its endeavor to legalize recreational cannabis, the European Union.
What Is the European Union and Why Does Germany Need Its Approval?
The European Union is a partnership of sorts. 27 European countries, called Member States, make up the European Union. This block of nations forms a unique political and economic network focused on maintaining peace, economic stability, and prosperity. Under the EU, member countries launched a single currency, accepted in all member states, known as the Euro.
To understand why this partnership is so profound, it helps to look at European geography. Europe includes numerous countries near one another. It is easy for a French tourist to hop on a train and find themselves in Switzerland or Germany in less than a day. Europe’s high-speed rail system makes it fast, cheap, and easy to travel between countries. Geography also means it is relatively easy for nations to trade with one another, exchanging much-needed goods and services.
However, border controls and a patchwork of different laws and currencies sometimes made travel and trade cumbersome. The formation of the EU allowed people to travel freely across the continent. It also fostered positive economic relations between EU countries.
Yet, you can’t enact a broad economic and political body without laws and regulations. The European Union is governed by a series of laws and treaties approved democratically by member countries. Primary laws are binding agreements between EU member nations. Secondary law includes principles, regulations, recommendations, and opinions. As a member of the EU, Germany must look to the governing body for approval of its cannabis legislation.
The Influences of the EU on Germany’s Cannabis Legalization Measure
Recently, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach expressed confidence that the EU would approve Germany’s plan to legalize recreational cannabis. After a meeting with his EU counterparts, Lauterbach says he was pleased to receive positive feedback from the European Commission. This news is a milestone for Germany because there have been concerns about whether legalizing recreational cannabis would comply with EU regulations.
Germany is now waiting for the EU’s final approval. Officials anticipate minor changes will need to be made to the proposed legislation to better comply with EU regulations. However, there is no word yet on what those changes may include. Yet, with the process in motion, German officials feel confident moving forward with potentially introducing cannabis legislation in the next few weeks.
Again, the legal framework of the EU is based, in part, on treaties. One treaty, the Schengen Convention of 1985, requires countries to combat the illicit drug trafficking trade. There have been concerns that legalizing recreational cannabis could potentially violate this treaty and lead to cannabis trafficking across Europe. Ensuring Germany meets treaty requirements means the German collation government must reduce crime and make cannabis use as safe as possible, issues the German government plans to address. Germany seeks to maintain its own goals while alleviating the fears of neighboring countries.
More Problems on the Horizon?
With Germany’s potential issues with the European Union in the rearview mirror, its path toward legalization should be free and clear. There is still one international organization that wants its say in the matter. The United Nations is an international organization first founded in 1945 after the end of World War II. It has grown from 51 original member nations to over 193 today. The goal of the body is to promote conversations surrounding peace, equality, economic stability, and meeting common goals.
The United Nations indicates member countries cannot progress further than simple decriminalization and legalizing medicinal cannabis. An annual report released by the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board suggests that the United States government violates the 1961 Single Convention treaty because it declines to enforce cannabis prohibition at the state level.
Currently, there is no indication the UN will levy consequences on countries with recreational cannabis laws. Member nations like Canada and Uruguay, for instance, federally legalized cannabis for recreational use without any repercussions from the international organization.
With the blessing of the EU, Germany seems poised to forge ahead with recreational cannabis legalization efforts, even against the wishes of the United Nations. If Germany succeeds in legalizing marijuana, recreational cannabis sales may begin as soon as 2024.
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