A peek at German Marijuana Legalization
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A peek at German Marijuana Legalization

The German press was given some details about German marijuana legalization last week. The Federal Cabinet approved yesterday the government’s plan to legalize German marijuana. We’ve blogged about Germany’s steady progress towards legalization before (see here and here), but it seems that the Germans are keeping to their promise to legalize marijuana in the near future. We predict that Europe will see a wave of legalization, with Germany being a key player.
We now have some details about the German legalization program. The European Commission will review the plan before it is sent to the German legislators to create the operative legislation.
The road to German marijuana legalization
Germany held a series of public hearings on legalization in July. Participants included stakeholders from countries with legalization, industry experts, as well as groups opposed to legalization. It was clear that the German government was very concerned about eliminating the illegal market. Several other countries also testified at the hearings about how their legalization efforts were affected by illegal markets.
The hearings also addressed the potential tax revenue that Germany could generate if legalization is successful. Like all countries that deal with this issue, Germany will also have to address the social cost of legalization. This is how to prioritize safety and education for its youth. This topic was also a major focus of Germany’s hearings.
Some key factors in German marijuana legalization
The German government proposes that anyone aged 18 and over may purchase and possess between 20 and 30 grams of marijuana (i.e., approximately.7 ounces to about 1 ounce for those of you on this side). Individuals will be allowed to grow up to three female plants at home. Home grows are not allowed for more than three plants, but they are allowed for at least one.
One of the most interesting limitations (which we don’t see in the states for flowers) was that the THC content in all products would be limited to 15%. If you were 18-21 years old, then you could only buy products with 10% THC. The official German plan that was released yesterday does not contain these limitations, except for customers aged 18-21. The key issues paper (described below) is a little vague on this point. It states that the upper limits for people under 21 are TBD.
Similar to states, marijuana businesses must have minimum distance buffers between themselves and schools and youth facilities. Contrary to our state systems, marijuana products will not be promoted or advertised in any way. Packaging and labeling must be plain and comply with strict disclosure requirements.
German marijuana businesses will need licensing to produce and sell adult-use marijuana. However, the government is considering allowing the sale of marijuana in existing pharmacies. In an effort to reduce the illegal market and increase accessibility and convenience, consumption lounges and online sales are being looked at.
Taxes are a major problem in America. There will be a sales tax as well as a “cannabis tax” that will be based upon THC content, but not so high that it exceeds illegal market prices. Even if Germany legalizes marijuana, it does not plan to allow foreign imports. The expectation is that Germany will grow marijuana.
When will Germany legalize cannabis?
Yesterday, Karl Lauterbach, the Health Minister of the country, published a “key issues document” and the world can expect to receive a copy of the draft law sometime in the new year.
The downsides to marijuana legalization in Germany
The above demonstrates that Germany is concerned about the illegal market within its borders as well as the safety and health of its citizens. Concepts like advertising bans and THC content caps that are so severe don’t allow for the legal market to be successfully contested.
Germany seems to understand the importance of accessibility and convenience. If cannabis is too difficult to buy, it will fuel the illegal market. They also have to be bullied for considering the use of prescriptions and consumption-focused locations. Germany must also be aware of the taxes that are applicable to ensure that businesses remain competitive while still balancing the social costs of this experiment. It is also a curious thing to ignore the importance of international trade in cannabis. Germany could easily learn from Uruguay and Canada to assess the actual risks associated with cannabis import and export, despite existing international laws.
The European Commission will now review and approve the legalization plan. (Or reject and a rewrite). We’ll be blogging about the draft legislation when it’s published next year.


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