Germany Takes Lead in EU Cannabis Decriminalization
Das Tabak-Brachenmagazin "Tobacco Asia" berichtet über die Entkriminalisierungsbemühungen in der europäischen Union und sprach mit den DHV-Sprecher Georg Wurth.
This is important to point out, because ‘decriminalization’ and ‘legalization’ are two very different matters that must not be confused with one another,” cautioned Georg Wurth, founder and c.e.o. of the German Cannabis Association (DHV). “Decriminalization is aimed at the individual consumer, who will no longer be prosecuted for possessing or using cannabis, while legalization concerns all aspects of commercialization such as opening cannabis shops, trading, and selling.”
Although full-scale legalization is not going to happen in Germany anytime soon, Wurth nevertheless calls himself satisfied. “Starting off with decriminalizing the end users is a sensible approach and something for which the DHV has campaigned many years,” he said. After all, even under the current outspokenly “pro-cannabis” government, almost 174,000 criminal cases have been filed in 2022 alone against citizens for possessing a few grams of weed or growing a couple of cannabis plants for their own consumption. “There are a million or more active users in Ger-many, so no longer treating them as criminals is the crucial first step into the right direction,” Wurth insisted.
Wurth explained that as part of that phase “consumers can have up to 25 grams of marijuana in their possession without needing to fear arrest.” That is a lot of grass! Secondly, the growing of “up to three flowering plants” at home likewise will be permitted, whereas it is understood that the “harvest” is for private consumption only and must not be commercially traded in any way. Then there are the already mentioned “cannabis social clubs”, which must operate as not-for-profit organizations. Intended as gathering spots for members to indulge in their favorite pastime, the clubs will be allowed to dispense cannabis obtained from their member network. But, they are explicitly barred from purchasing stocks “from third parties”. “That [third-party purchasing] could be construed as violating EU law and the government wants to avoid incurring penalties imposed by the European Commission,” explained Wurth.
Last but not least, the clubs apparently are going to have the additional option to grow their own cannabis on site, too, the plants tended by volunteers appointed and supervised by the respective club committee. But, Wurth noted that clubs will not be permitted to grow more than their members actually consume. In other words, surplus production is a no-no. How these clubs are to be controlled and how the amount of cannabis they are permitted to grow will be determined remains rather murky at this point. “It was not clearly expressed [during the conference], so we will have to wait until details are published in writing,” Wurth said.
“Retail shops will only be allowed to open within these pilot regions and alongside the social clubs, whereas outside of these zones only social clubs will be permitted, but no shops,” clarified Wurth. He added that designated pilot regions could potentially be located hundreds of kilometers apart from each other. “For example, there could be one zone in Berlin, another in Hamburg, yet another in Munich,” he explained.
“Unlike non-EU countries such as Canada or Uruguay, Germany is still bound by rather strict EU regulations regarding narcotics and cannot simply unilaterally decide to embark on a full-scale legalization,” Wurth said. He added, “Whichever German laws are hammered out, they must not conflict with EU law.”
But while Wurth was confident that initial decriminalization will almost certainly lead up to eventual legalization, he also expressed some disappointment at the proposed time frame. The regional pilot projects are supposed to run for a minimum of five years before an evaluation will determine if further expansion is even on the books. Furthermore, such an expansion will be hinged on the passing of appropriate laws by Germany’s 16 federal states as well as the national assembly.
“Considering how slow progress has been so far, legalization will not occur until well into the next decade even if everything goes off without a hitch,” Wurth worried.
“I hope [the Czechs] will stick to their plan, submit a comprehensive legalization draft to the EU Commission and then fight it out in Brussels and Strasbourg,” said Wurth. If that works, Czech Republic may overtake Germany still.