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Germany’s Cannabis Legalization Bill a Disappointment for Advocates

Germans hoping for robust cannabis reform may be disappointed with the country’s new direction. Many cannabis legalization advocates call the new watered-down legislation a significant setback for the cannabis movement. Instead of the Amsterdam-like scenarios where people could get a joint with a cup of coffee, legislators put the kibosh on “drug clubs,” saying that they would not solve problems but would create new ones.

Germany’s scaled-back cannabis legalization plans are taking shape after months of back and forth between the country and the European Union, a 27-country partnership that forms a political and economic network stabilizing much of Europe.

As Germany forges ahead to establish some legalized cannabis framework in the country, some wonder if the move is too little to impact cannabis enthusiasts and the German economy significantly. Others wonder if the move quells young, liberal enthusiasm in the country at a time when young voters were poised to position Germany for a progressive-agenda shake-up.

What’s Included in Germany’s New Cannabis Legalization Plan

 In many U.S. states that have legalized recreational cannabis for adults, an individual can walk into a cannabis shop and find rows of unique cannabis products. You can choose from specific cannabis flower strains and find numerous edibles to satisfy your every cannabis craving, not to mention paraphernalia and other cannabis-related products. Basically, you get a one-stop shop for all your cannabis needs, making it easy to try new products and expand your palate.

Unfortunately for those excited about the prospect of legalizing recreational cannabis in Germany, the country’s new and limited cannabis plans focus on home cultivation. The scaled-back version of Germany’s legalization plans would only allow individuals to grow up to three cannabis plants at home. Instead of recreational shops supplied with all manner of cannabis products, individuals could only purchase cannabis through non-profit groups or cannabis clubs of up to 500 members.

The neutered version of the country’s original cannabis legislation would legalize possession of up to 25 grams of cannabis. However, cannabis advertising would be banned. Additionally, there would be a limit placed on THC levels in cannabis for those under 21, and consumption would be restricted to certain locations.

The legislation may allow a pilot project to see a small number of licensed shops open in some regions of the country, but only to test the effects of commercial recreational cannabis supply chains on public health. It would also examine the effects on the black market and the protection of minors.

Backing Down on Previous Plans

 Germany is backing away from its prior recreational cannabis legalization plans, partly because of pushback from the European Union and pressure from other member countries. At a press conference, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said the original draft legalization plan “would not take us any further in pursuing our goals.” This announcement comes after Lauterbach expressed confidence that the EU would approve Germany’s comprehensive legalization plan. Today, he acknowledges that the previous cannabis policy failed, and he and others are looking at going in new directions.

The legal framework that makes up the European Union rests on treaties. One treaty, in particular, requires all member countries to combat the illicit drug trafficking trade in Europe. Some member states worried that legalizing cannabis in Germany could increase trafficking problems in nearby countries.

German Agricultural Minister Cem Özdemir says that the watered-down legislation would mean Germany wouldn’t have to notify Brussels to check that its national laws don’t violate EU laws. Carmen Wegge from Lauterbach’s Social Democratic Party says the government is opting to follow a more restrained, safe plan that appeals to overall European law.

However, detractors say the new legislation falls significantly short of the German government’s grand legalization plans it previously laid out. Others say that THC ceilings and restrictive cannabis clubs will only continue to drive cannabis consumers to the black market and unsafe products.

Although still unpopular with some staunch conservative politicians in Germany, cannabis legalization was one of the few areas where Germany’s three parties saw themselves as progressive and “with the times.” Younger, outgoing cabinet members in the country saw cannabis legalization as their way of pushing a more liberal agenda, energizing young voters while pledging change and progress in a new direction. However, constant pushback from the EU and the war in Ukraine may have shifted the country’s priorities, dampening the cannabis movement.

What’s War Got to Do with It?

 In addition to the concerns proposed by the European Union, the war in Ukraine shifted the priorities of the German government. As Russia launched a full-scale invasion, Germany boosted its military spending. Germany has supported Ukraine through military equipment, weapons, and essential supplies. The German government has also pledged 12 billion euros worth of military support.

At the same time, Germany has had to cut its Russian energy and trade links. Previously, Germany imported almost half of its gas and more than a third of its oil from Russia. These spending and policy shifts put Germany in a challenging position, although the country has weathered the economic difficulties remarkably well. However, the focus on outside influences may have hampered the progress of cannabis legislation as political parties spar over spending and government priorities.

In the meantime, the German government plans to move forward with its new, less dramatic version of cannabis legislation, opening the doors to limited cannabis accessibility in the country. While the news is disappointing to many cannabis enthusiasts in Germany and throughout Europe, there is hope that limited recreational legalization may pave the way for more comprehensive policy additions in the future. Recreational legalization may have to occur one small policy step at a time.

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