New German coalition plans to legalise cannabis – but when will sales begin?

The newly elected German governing coalition has followed through on pre-election promises and included a plan for cannabis legalisation in its coalition agreement. However, details on how exactly the plan will go forward – and when – are light.

The agreement says: “We are introducing the controlled supply of cannabis to adults for consumption in licensed stores. This controls the quality, prevents the transfer of contaminated substances and guarantees the protection of minors. We [will] evaluate the law after four years for social impact. We [will] enable and expand models for drug checking and harm reduction measures.”

The term “licensed stores” suggests a model similar to what’s seen in those US states where recreational cannabis is legal and other markets such as Canada.

The agreement also says it would tighten regulations for marketing and sponsorship by alcohol, tobacco and cannabis companies – presumably meaning the government intends to allow at least some limited form of advertising and marketing of cannabis in the country.

But given the light-on-detail introduction, a valid question to be asked is when exactly this plan will come to fruition. When will we see the first legal sales of recreational cannabis take place in Germany? And how will the regulations governing it look when fully formed?


Different rules for different states?


Current policy on hemp and CBD suggests Germany could end up effectively seeming like a state-by-state approach on permitting sales.

Thus far the national government has spelled out a national approach to hemp and cannabinoids but largely left enforcement and local rule-making to state governments, which has led to a mixed bag in terms of enforcement.

It is possible that recreational cannabis will follow suit, with the national government permitting it but leaving it up to individual regions to then decide whether they want to implement it, how to implement it, and how far to go in terms of permissions in things like cannabinoid levels, types of productpermitted and rules governing retail availability to consumers.

It is also likely to be some time before any national regulations are agreed, much less implemented. Any future bill approved by the coalition would still need to pass the Bundesrat – the legislative body that represents the 16 regions, or Länder, at federal level – which is controlled by the conservative parties for at least the next one or two years.

And looking at the various delays that have happened in countries that have had political will to move forward with some form of recreational legalisation, it may be some time before Germany’s coalition members can agree on a bill themselves, much less agree on one that would then satisfy enough conservative elements to have a chance of becoming law.

In all, while the announcement is welcome news, it must be viewed as merely the first step in a long, long walk with no 100% guarantee of legalisation at the end.

Freddie Dawson CBD-Intel staff

Photo: Emma Jendoubi

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