Healthcare and Life Sciences

Cannabis legalisation “light”

On 12 April 2023, the Federal Government presented a key proposals paper on legalisation of cannabis for recreational purposes which was substantially revised from its earlier draft. Full legalisation is off the table. The paper envisages two pillars of cannabis legalisation.

Pillar 1: Higher limits for personal consumption / “cannabis social clubs”

The first pillar contains the following provisions:

  • Non-profit associations (“cannabis clubs”), with a maximum of 500 members 18 years of age and older, may collectively cultivate cannabis for recreational purposes and supply it only to members for their own consumption. These clubs will be under the supervision of the state authorities.

  • A maximum of 25 grams of cannabis per day and 50 grams per month may be dispensed to each member. People under 21 years of age may only receive a maximum of 30 grams per month.

  • Consumption will not be permitted in the club rooms (alcohol will also be prohibited).

  • The clubs will have to maintain a minimum distance from schools and day-care centres and consuming cannabis will be prohibited in their vicinity. Consumption of cannabis in pedestrian zones before 20:00 will not be allowed.

  • The clubs may provide their members with a maximum of seven seeds or five cuttings for self-cultivation.

  • Possession of up to 25 grams of cannabis for recreational use will remain exempt from punishment.

  • Minors who are caught with cannabis will have to participate in intervention and prevention programmes.

  • In the future, each adult will generally be allowed to have three cannabis plants for home cultivation.

  • The limits for use while driving will be reviewed with input from specialist committees.

  • Evaluation after four years.

Pillar 2: Commercial model projects (bill expected in the autumn of 2023)

As part of the second pillar, “commercial supply chains” are to be tested in model projects in districts and cities of several federal states. For five years, companies are to be allowed to produce, distribute and sell cannabis for recreational purposes to adults in licensed specialist retail stores. The model will be scientifically monitored and the findings will be provided to the EU Commission as well. The possibility of permitting distribution of edibles (e.g. biscuits or cakes containing cannabis) subject to strict conditions is currently being reviewed. No timetable for implementing the second pillar has been announced. According to Federal Health Minister Lauterbach, however, an initial bill can be expected in the autumn of 2023.

Next steps

In the course of implementing the new two-pillar model, the Federal Government will invoke – vis-à-vis the relevant UN bodies – the interpretive declaration made in 1993 upon ratification of the 1988 UN Convention and issue a statement declaring the project to be compatible with the purpose and legal requirements of the UN Conventions.

Moreover, the Federal Government has announced that alongside the national implementation, it will continue with its efforts to persuade European partners to align with the more liberal approaches of the original key proposals paper, while assessing the possibility that a sufficient number of EU Member States will take the initiative to make the EU legal framework more flexible and develop it further.

Consequences for cannabis distribution in Germany

  • In contrast to what is stipulated in the coalition agreement, no comprehensive legalisation will be adopted.

  • Nevertheless, cannabis will become more available in the population as a whole which, from a purely objective standpoint, is also likely to have an impact on law enforcement.

  • But commercial production and distribution of cannabis will still only be possible for medical purposes (article of 2 December 2022).

  • However, it is also conceivable that for chronically ill patients, membership in a “social club” will eliminate their need to obtain prescriptions for medical cannabis.

  • It is very likely that it will only be possible to dispense commercially produced/imported cannabis in licensed shops in the course of implementing the model projects involved in the “second pillar”. It is unclear when these model projects will commence. According to Federal Health Minister Lauterbach, a corresponding bill is planned for autumn 2023.