Many were disappointed with last month’s press conference that outlined Germany’s updated approach to cannabis legalisation. The new rules are set to be considerably watered down from the original cornerstones paper released in October 2022, instead favouring a two-pillared approach that is set to introduce cannabis social clubs and a 5-year regional pilot project. It now appears that the cannabis industry is set to be disappointed for a second time with the latest draft of Germany’s cannabis bill…
At the start of last week, local German press revealed that they were able to get a first glance at the draft Cannabis Bill which aims to regulate the recently announced cannabis social clubs. According to Health Minister, Karl Lauterbach, the clubs are set to be “cultivation associations”, meaning that anyone wishing to found a club will have to comply with strict rules and regulations.
The bill has yet to be approved by the German government and is in draft form, so it may change with later deliberations. Despite this, the initial leaked rules appear to be much more restrictive than we had previously imagined.
Rules for Cannabis Social Clubs
Much of the contents of the draft bill concern the regulation and running of cannabis social clubs (CSCs), the first pillar of the approach outlined in April’s press conference. This arm was set to come into action by the end of the year, with the aim of introducing adult access to ‘clean’ cannabis as quickly as possible. The leaked bill provides the first insights as to the running and management of these clubs, which are as follows:
- No cannabis to be consumed within CSCs or within a 250m radius of CSCs
- CSC premises and premises where cannabis is grown or stored must be fenced off or secured e.g. burglar proof doors and windows and greenhouses should have a privacy screen
- Federal states to set minimum distances between CSCs and other facilities e.g. playgrounds, schools and sports facilities
- Every cannabis association is to draw up a ‘health and youth protection concept’ and appoint a trained addiction and prevention officer who received regular refresher courses
- Board members of CSCs who are entered into the register of associations must present a certificate of good conduct
- Clubs must comply with limits for pesticides and fertilisers and keep a record of where they obtain their seed from, how many plants they grow, how many seeds they store and how much cannabis they give to each member
- Every year CSCs are to report to authorities how much cannabis is produced, sold or destroyed, THC and CBD levels in their stock and what the current stock figure is
- CSCs may only distribute cannabis to members in neutral packaging or unpackaged so as to eliminate incentives for young people, not more than 50g max and must contain a leaflet with weight, harvest date, best before date, variety and THC/CBD levels
- Members aged over 18 but under 21 are subject to a 10% THC limit and 30g per month maximum
- The draft law still maintains that CSCs are allowed 500 members maximum, and that members are not allowed to join more than one club
There were also several updates that pertained to general cannabis consumption, outside of CSCs, including:
- Smoking cannabis within 250m of facilities such as schools, playgrounds, daycares etc. to be prohibited
- Cannabis consumption not permitted in pedestrian zones between 7am and 8pm
- Personal possession kept at 25g and cultivation of up to 3 plants for personal use, however it has now been clarified that this is limited to 3 plants per year
Ha ha, I totally missed that. In the German cannabis "legalization", homegrow is restricted to only 3 flowering plants *per calender year*
*Per calender year*.
When I read the Malta laws, I though we had an alltime low, but Germany went even deeper in the control madness. https://t.co/8RaKjmKRfw
— PieterHog (@PieterHog) May 10, 2023
What do the new rules mean for cannabis legalisation in Germany?
With many already feeling let down by Germany’s revised plans that were announced in April, the new rules for CSCs are sure to increase this feeling of disappointment. The plans have already been criticised for their lack of a ‘business-friendly’ approach which some feel potentially gives way to the illicit market taking advantage of CSCs. As well as this, those hoping to capitalise on a potential adult-use market have essentially seen their business model vanish before their very eyes, with a full commercial model rumoured to have been set back by at least 10 years.
However, it appears that the tighter restrictions which are set to be placed on CSCs might leave the first pillar of the plans ‘dead in the water’. The strict rules and overregulation of the clubs means that they are quickly becoming an unattractive option to ‘aficionados’ who might have found them a popular option.
He heh. Another problem: in this plan, citizens may only grow cannabis plants at home from seeds or seedlings bought at a Cannabis Social Club.
So: no Cannabis Social Clubs = no legal homegrow.
And will we actually see CSCs in Germany? Under this law? That is doubtful.
— PieterHog (@PieterHog) May 12, 2023
It’s clear that Germany appears to be keeping the ‘public health’ approach central to their legalisation plans, with the THC limit for 18-21 year olds and introduction of an ‘addiction and prevention officer’. There is no denying that the health and safety of the public should be at the heart of any drug policy reform plans. However, when contrasted with its ability to bring customers in from the legacy market it can be argued that Germany’s plans are showing signs of becoming far too restrictive and not in the interest of the consumer.
If this legalised cannabis model is unable to sufficiently compete with the illicit market due to restrictions that suffocate its ability to offer customers free and fair access to cannabis, then it seems Germany’s plans may have stumbled at the first hurdle.
Of course it’s important to recognise that these plans are merely a first draft of the law that hasn’t yet been subjected to various deliberations and votes. At the end of last month the draft bill was submitted to the ‘departmental vote’, meaning that it will now be reviewed by the other ministries.
Of course we will be keeping an eye out for further announcements regarding Germany’s plans and reporting back on the website as they happen, so stay tuned!
This piece was written by Volteface Content and Media Officer Megan Townsend. She is particularly interested in the reform of drug legislation, subcultural drug use and harm reduction initiatives. She also has an MA in Criminology from Birmingham City University. Tweets @megant2799.