Berlin – when Amsterdam was the pioneer of ‘coffeehouses’In the 1970s, the European capital was one of the only destinations you could access publicly Buying and smoking weed—quickly becoming a cosmopolitan mecca for marijuana lovers. But over the past decade, the grass seems to have grown greener on the other side of the Atlantic Colorado and Washington legalized recreational cannabis use in 2012 And the Uruguay became the first country to legalize it the following yearfollowed by Canada in 2018.
Europe has lagged behind, focusing on decriminalization rather than full legalization. But now Germany is trying to become the first member of the European Union to legalize cannabis. Its neighbors are watching closely, both out of curiosity and disapproval, as the global marijuana industry eyes a new market of 80 million potential customers.
German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach announced the outlines of a potential cannabis law that would roughly follow the Canadian model — declassifying marijuana as a drug, creating a state-licensed production, delivery, and sale system; Allowing adults to take 20-30 grams for personal use and creating a federal cannabis tax. Lauterbach has named 2024 as a possible date for the legislation’s passage. The proposed law is a reflection of the ruling “traffic light” coalition, made up of the Social Democrats, which see rationing as a way to liberalize law enforcement, the Free Democrats (FDP), who see rationing as the key to unlocking more than €1 billion a year in taxes, and the Greens, Who want to undermine the illegal market. Opposition parties oppose the legislation, with Bavarian Health Minister Klaus Hollickek publicly seeking a veto from the European Commission. The one thing all sides agree on: get rid of the illegal marijuana market.
Bomba, a 30-year-old dealer who has spent the past two years since arriving in Germany selling marijuana, among other illegal drugs, in Berlin’s Gurlitzer Park – also referred to as “Germany’s number one trouble park” by local media – says: Because of its network of immigrants, often waiting for legal paperwork, who openly sell drugs at all hours of the day. “There are already places in the neighborhood where you can legally get weed, but what we sell here is different. I take two, three, puffs and it does what it’s supposed to do.”
This is the kind of process that both sides of the debate would like to see disappear, but whether it can be made through legal competition or tough police action depends on whether the EU is able to reconcile German law with the European law it replaces. And this is where it gets complicated.
The EU’s drug policies are based on the 1961 United Nations Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which obliges members to take whatever measures are necessary to restrict the cultivation, import, sale, and consumption of cannabis for purely medical and scientific purposes. Germany’s legal argument hinges on not importing cannabis. She hopes to use the 1988 UN Convention, which allows for the decriminalization of personal use and cultivation for personal use in conjunction with a 1994 German Constitutional Court ruling that states cannot interfere with the personal use of drugs as long as they do not harm anyone.
According to international drug policy expert Martin Jelsma of the Transnational Institute, an international research and advocacy group that works with international lawyers to create pathways to legalization, the difference between enforcement tactics in the United Nations and the European Union is why marijuana legalization has yet to be seen in Europe.
“The UN treaties themselves don’t have strong procedures for pressuring governments into compliance,” says Gilsma. It is for this reason that Uruguay and Canada have been able to continue without any sanctions. The problem with European law is that it has a very strong enforcement mechanism, because all EU countries can initiate infringement proceedings if one of the member states acts contrary to European law.”
Germany is not the first EU member state to try to legalize cannabis, nor the only one to have expressed such a desire. A similar “traffic light” coalition in Luxembourg announced plans to regulate the cannabis market in 2018, only to scale back the decriminalization of domestically grown plants for personal consumption in 2021. That same year, Malta became the first country in Europe to agree to legalize recreational cannabis and non-purpose growing clubs. For profit that can supply up to 500 members – however they have discontinued a state licensed system of production, distribution and sale like in the US or Canada. This gives them reasonable cover to say they are still within the limits of European law.
“Germany is a game-changer, given the size of the market, but also because it is the first country to propose a fully legal, state-licensed market with sales distribution systems,” says Gilsma. “It puts the European Commission in a very difficult position: they do not want to enter into conflict with Germany, because it is the largest financier of the EU project.”
The size of the German market also makes it a very attractive country for cannabis startups, with local medical marijuana companies becoming more interesting to foreign investors looking to tap into a multi-billion dollar recreational market. Berlin-based Cantorage made a successful debut on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange on November 11, following the government’s announcement, which they alluded to in their initial public offering statement.
Stephen Murphy, founder of Prohibition Partners, a European market research firm focused on marijuana, believes political pressure from German voters will be key to achieving Lauterbach’s goal for 2024. He also sees Germany as key to opening up a European recreational market.
“What Germany did well with medical marijuana in 2017,” Murphy says, “is that it opened up the market and allowed for a mix of public and private support for cannabis companies.” “In terms of talent and sheer scale, German companies have the best understanding in Europe of the supply chain from seed to sale.”
However, the cannabis industry has reservations about Germany’s current proposal. Essentially, it stipulated that only domestic production would be allowed, without import capabilities. Since Germany’s climate cannot support outdoor cannabis cultivation, the recreational supply, which Murphy calculates at 700 tons annually, will depend on expensive grow houses that require a high level of energy consumption. Germany’s production is currently unable to even meet its medical demand of 30 tons annually, as it imports cannabis from other countries. But not everyone is convinced the law will go far enough to worry about supply.
“Germany is a country of drinkers. They really don’t care about legalizing marijuana,” says Saubadin Moustafa, a 50-year-old resident of Bavaria who has been fighting medical and recreational legalization since he was 17. Private growers to go to dispensaries.Over the years, he has ended up in court on multiple occasions defending his right to grow his own weed, free of the chemical additives commonly found in street drugs to enhance the effects of THC, plus genetic modifications that allow industrial strains to produce more Buds.” Marijuana should be like a tomato: organic. And any true stoner will tell you that the best cannabis is grown outdoors – even here in Germany.”
While Gilesma doesn’t doubt the German government’s sincerity in legalizing it, he foresees problems with commenting on the whole legalization argument about not importing cannabis, since the same treaties that ban import also prohibit domestic production and sale of marijuana. Instead, he argues, Germany should follow the example of Bolivia – which left the 1961 UN agreement and re-signed it a year later so that they could add a reservation to their signature and not be bound by the treaty’s provisions restricting production. of coca leaves – plus gathering with like-minded neighbors.
“Germany’s strength is the main argument,” says Gilsma. “There will be many countries that will follow Germany’s example: Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Malta, and perhaps Denmark and Portugal.”
While it is clear that a growing part of Europe believes it is time for a change, Lauterbach said the European Commission will have the final say on whether legalization is possible, or if Germany is just blowing smoke.