German Cabinet sends diluted recreational cannabis bill to Parliament

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Europe’s largest economy inched closer to ending marijuana prohibition after the German federal Cabinet gave the green light to a watered-down bill to legalize some recreational cannabis use.

The Cabinet’s approval this week is an important step from Germany’s three-party governing coalition and marks a milestone for the cannabis industry in Europe.

The draft law now heads to the Bundestag – Germany’s Parliament – which is expected to make changes to the law.

“The Cannabis Act marks a turning point in what has unfortunately been a failed cannabis drug policy. The aim is to push back the (illicit) market and drug-related crime, curb the dealing in adulterated or toxic substances and reduce consumer numbers,” Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said in a news release.

The bill lays the legal footing for “nonprofit cultivation associations” – clubs of up to 500 people – which will be strictly regulated.

The measure also:

  • Allows adults to grow up to three cannabis plants for their own consumption as well as for community, noncommercial cultivation for their own consumption in grow associations or cooperatives.
  • Bans advertising and sponsorship for consumer cannabis and cultivation associations.
  • Limits the transfer of consumer cannabis via growers’ associations to members only, with a limit of 25 grams per day or 50 grams per month.
  • Limits distribution to people 18-21 years old to no more than 30 grams per month. Their THC limit will be 10%.
  • Limits distribution to dried marijuana and hashish.

The draft law mandates an evaluation take place on the social impact after four years.

Germany had originally intended to fully legalize cannabis but decided on a lighter, two-track approach after running into resistance from the European Commission – the European Union’s executive branch.

The German Hemp Association hailed the draft as a “milestone” on the way to reforming cannabis policy.

The body said the move could put an end to criminalizing relatively minor consumption-related offences.

However, the association is hopeful major issues will be addressed in the parliamentary process.

Some include:

  • An “unrealistic” ban on consumption in cannabis cultivation clubs.
  • Hefty penalties and fines for small violations of “already arbitrary limits.” For instance, the group said possession of 25 grams will be made perfectly legal, but 26 grams would carry a prison sentence of up to three years.

Germany is expected to bring forward a second law, the timing of which is not yet confirmed, to facilitate regional pilot projects with commercial supply chains.

The 181-page draft law is available here.