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International Cannabis Update: Germany Joins Malta and Luxembourg in Liberalizing Marijuana Policy

By Jason Adelstone

Feb 27, 2024

After months of uncertainty, Germany’s parliament approved its scaled-back legalization/decriminalization bill, making Germany the third European country to legalize marijuana activities. While this bill does not go so far as to legalize the commercial sale of marijuana like many advocates were hoping for and the Traffic Light Coalition promised, it is still a monumental step forward. Germany has historically been on the conservative side of drug policy, and this move towards regulations, rather than prohibition, will likely have lasting effects on EU drug policy discussions moving forward. 

The law is expected to go into effect on April 1, but it still must go through the Bundesrat, the upper house of Parliament, before becoming law. The Bundesrat, however, has only the authority to discuss and examine the bill, but it is not required to consent to its implementation, and it can’t veto it. Certain procedural maneuvers can be utilized to delay the bill, which could affect the Government’s goal of implementation by April. 

Key Provisions of the Decriminalization Measure 

The scaled-back legalization measure decriminalizes the possession of up to 25 grams in public spaces and 50 grams at home, allows for the private at-home cultivation of up to three plants, and allows for adults to grow cannabis through social clubs and access up to 50 grams per month from their social club. No consumption within these clubs is permitted. 

This is a far cry from the full-scale commercial legalization measure proposed by the Traffic Light coalition during the last election. Germany, like others, faced the hard reality that under EU law and international obligations set forth in the 1961 Single Convention, full-scale legalization just wasn’t possible without risking penalties related to noncompliance.  

Implementation Timeline and Potential Challenges for the New Law 

The German government must now ensure that this scaled-back approach is fully implemented before the next election. Far-right Conservative parties are expected to do very well in Germany’s June elections and could try to reverse the incremental accomplishments of the current government. The Christian Democrats fought hard against this bill, pushing a platform of “Refer Madness” that is far removed from the reality of regulated markets. The current Government needs to ensure that this program is fully implemented before the next government takes over. Otherwise, who knows how long this scaled-back legalization effort will last?  

Looking Ahead: Implications of the German Legislation for the Czech Republic's Marijuana Policy 

Despite the concerns for what may happen under a new government and arguments that this bill does not go nearly as far as it should have, one thing is certain – the conversation around marijuana reform is shifting at a rapid pace. The German government should be applauded for advancing marijuana reform that pushes for regulation over prohibition. All eyes will now be on the Czech Republic to see if they can push through a fully commercial legalization measure. Or, if they too, will give in to pressure and compromise for a similar scaled-back approach to legalization. 

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