Legal Adult Cannabis Use Expected in Germany by the End of 2023

Updates on Germany's legal cannabis plans were announced today by Minister of Health, Dr. Karl Lauterbach, and Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, Cem Özdemir...

by Megan Townsend

Following their dialogue with the EU, Germany has announced their highly anticipated updated plans for cannabis legalisation, with the approach altered considerably from the original cornerstone paper released in October 2022.

The key takeaways from the new policy are a two-pillared approach that will introduce cannabis social clubs and a 5-year regional pilot project. 

On 12th April 2023, Minister of Health, Dr. Karl Lauterbach, and Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, Cem Özdemir, held a press conference to announce the country’s updated approach to legalised adult cannabis use. 

The new plans see a two-pillared approach to legalisation which permits non-commercial cultivation, both privately and as a part of cannabis social clubs (CSCs), and introduces a 5-year regional pilot project of licensed ‘specialist shops’. Whilst the first arm of the plan aims to introduce adult access to ‘clean’ cannabis as quickly as possible, the second arm has been constructed to ‘bridge the gap’ to future national legislation. 

Rules for the introduction of CSCs include a maximum of 500 members, and a maximum purchase of 25g at a time/50g per month per club members, with non-members prohibited from purchasing.

The commercial arm of the plans will take the form of 5-year regional pilot projects, during which time Germany hopes to gain more space for progressive cannabis policies across Europe. The full ins and outs of the projects are still unclear. When asked, the Ministers stated that specifics would be released after the summer break. 

In terms of overcoming EU hurdles, it appears that the first pillar should pass with little to no problem, as Lauterbach states it does not need to be registered with the EU. Therefore, this can be expected to come into force by the end of the year. However, the same isn’t true for the second pillar, and so this may be why there is a delay in announcing the full plans.

The Ministers confirmed that there are no plans for commercial shops at present. However, Lauterbach stated that these would be considered after the regional model projects. It appears that the EU may have had a say in this decision, as Lauterbach stated that full commercial legalisation wouldn’t be possible without the regional project, hinting that Europe requires detailed evidence that the plans are viable before it commits to full national legalisation. 

If there’s one thing that’s clear about the new plans, it’s that Germany appears committed to its stance that the current prohibitionist policy hasn’t worked. The goals of the new policy continue to centre around health protection, and protecting young people from the illicit market. Karl Lauterbach states that the plans have the potential to reduce, if not eradicate the illicit market altogether, and if this can be achieved then young people will be sufficiently protected.

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.

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