Nearly a year after Germany's new ruling coalition announced plans to legalize adult-use cannabis, a local media outlet has leaked an early draft of its proposed weed regulations. And although the draft shows that officials have clearly tried to compromise on a plan that would appeal to opponents and advocates alike, their solution has drawn criticism from both sides of the fence.
Germany's coalition government announced its intent to legalize adult-use cannabis immediately after winning last year’s election, but officials didn't have much to say about the specifics of their plan at the time. This spring, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach convened a working group tasked with delivering a thorough adult-use bill by the end of this year. So far, the government has not officially disclosed its plans for legalization, but the leaked proposal gives the public an idea of what officials have in mind.
The leaked draft bill, which was published by RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND) this Wednesday, would make it legal for adults 18 and older to possess up to 20 grams of weed. Adults would also be allowed to grow up to 2 plants at home, but only if they acquire proper authorization to do so. Licensed domestic producers would be allowed to grow cannabis and sell it via licensed dispensaries, Dutch-style “coffee shops,” and even at local pharmacies.
Many conservative politicians still oppose the government's decision to legalize weed, arguing that legalization will impact public health or defy EU law. Health officials have clearly considered these concerns, as the proposed bill includes a number of heavy restrictions on cannabis potency and production. These restrictions have already drawn heavy criticism from advocates, who argue that these plans will doom the country's legal weed industry to failure.
The biggest sticking point so far is the government's decision to cap all legal cannabis products at a maximum THC content of 15%. And for adults aged 18 to 21, THC content would be further capped to only 10%. In contrast, THC levels of black market bud often well exceed 20%, as do legal products in Canada and adult-use US states. Critics are arguing that these caps will keep the black market alive, since many cannabis connoisseurs would prefer to buy potent illicit weed over a weak legal alternative.
"Unnecessarily restrictive!" said Kristine Lütke, drug policy speaker of the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), one of the three parties in the ruling coalition, POLITICO reports. Lütke argued that these caps "will drive consumers to the black market,” especially younger adults. “A disaster for youth, health & consumer protection.”
Advocates are also criticizing the government's decision to prohibit the import of legal weed from other countries. Officials apparently chose to include this restriction to comply with EU law, which still continues to prohibit cannabis. But advocates are concerned that it will take years for Germany's domestic adult-use industry to mature to the point that it can meet the massive demand for weed. And while this slow process plays out, the black market will continue to thrive.
"We need to allow the import of recreational cannabis,” said Niklas Kouparanis, CEO and co-founder of Bloomwell Group, a German medical cannabis company, to Forbes. “Otherwise, we cannot satisfy the need because we don't have the capacity right now, and we will again favor the illicit market at the legal market's expense.”
Germany already has a thriving medical cannabis industry, but the vast majority of medicine sold in the country is imported from elsewhere. The country's domestic medical marijuana growers only produce around 2.6 tons of weed a year, and dispensaries need to import around 20 additional tons of medicine to meet demand. Officials have estimated that an adult-use market would require at least 400 tons of weed annually, and it's unclear if the country could even support growing that much flower.
The draft regulations that were just leaked to the press are still a work in progress, though, and the final released version may address some or all of these concerns. And once they do come to a final decision, the bill will be passed on to Parliament, where it could be amended further. Lawmakers are still hopeful that the legislation could be approved by the year's end, making Germany the first European country to fully legalize adult-use cannabis sales.