A new era in Germany’s government signals a brighter future for cannabis policy reform, and some in the industry believe adult-use legalization could spur change across the European Union.
After 16 years with Angela Merkel at the helm, the Social Democrats (SPD) narrowly defeated her Christian Democratic Union in this month’s election, the SPD’s first win since 2002.
Merkel’s conservative party has been opposed to adult-use legalization, while other Bundestag parties have alluded to different views.
A so-called traffic light coalition, made up of the centre-left SPD, the Greens and the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) appear to be the likely group forming government.
While the SPD hasn’t taken a bold stance on cannabis policy reform, a coalition government with Greens and FDP likely increases the chances of amending the country’s weed laws.
But according to the New York Times, it’s the first time since the 1950s that the next chancellor needs at least three different parties behind a governing deal, which may not be an easy task.
Domino effect of adult-use legalization in Germany
Adult-use legalization in Germany would have a profound impact on nearby countries, says Deepak Anand, CEO of international medical cannabis firm Materia.
“We look very seriously at recreational legalization if the German domino was to fall. So I think the impact for legalization in Germany is not just only going to be felt within Germany, but generally in the European Union as well.”
Access to medical cannabis in Germany is difficult while pharmacies remain the only way to get prescribed pot, he says, but recreational cannabis could be a driving force to broaden product availability.
“I think recreational cannabis legalization will sort of undo those shackles where you won’t be restricted in the product form that you’re having, which is effectively dried flower. We’ve seen some extract in the market, but mainly dried flower, so it allows for other form factors to be made available.”
Calls for cannabis change within Germany
Germany has grown into the largest medical cannabis market in Europe since the country legalized medical use in 2017, but the demand is met by international suppliers.
In a statement, German cannabis business association Branchenverband Cannabiswirtschaft e.V. (BvCW) notes 17 countries — nine in Europe — are meeting domestic demand.
With the existing demand for cannabis, Anand adds the economic benefit of taxing a regulated recreational market will be a significant factor in decision making.
“Coming out of Covid-19, all governments are faced with significant kind of fiscal shortfall,” he says.
Aside from meeting demand domestically, rules around the personal limits of cannabis have been brought up.
In Germany, a small amount of cannabis for personal use is tolerated, and since a specific number wasn’t specified in federal law, it’s up to states what that means. For example, in the city-state of Berlin, up to 15 grams is allowed. The country’s supreme court ruled a “minor” amount of cannabis is 7.5 grams.
The federal government’s drug commissioner Daniela Ludwig told the RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland a limit of up to six grams would be acceptable nationwide, in her opinion.
“The current patchwork of regulations must be ended,” she added.
Those comments came about a month before the final election results, as Ludwig also suggested that the Union reach a compromise with other parties through a coalition.