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Germany has successfully passed a law legalising the recreational use of cannabis.

The bill must still go through the Federal Council, which will have the opportunity only to object to the bill, not to veto it.

As a result, Germany could become the first mainland EU member state to successfully apply a regulatory framework to the sale of recreational cannabis, joining Malta, which recently announced that the first of its cannabis clubs was fully operational and had started distributing cannabis to members, and Switzerland, which has launched a limited trial of recreational sales in some cantons.

Other countries, such as Luxembourg, have made some moves towards legalisation, but concerns over international objections – including from Germany at the time – and compliance with pan-national treaties have led to delays and multiple reductions in strength of commitment to legalisation.

Germany’s legalisation plan has been criticised for being watered down from original promises. Plans for commercial sales were eliminated out of concerns over compliance with international narcotics treaties.

However, the ability to get any form of legalisation over the line has been lauded by some in the sector who see it as an important first step that could lead to further gains towards a full commercial model later on. It also means German producers of medical cannabis will no longer be limited to the tendering process and maximum quantities, and would be able to cultivate strains according to market demand.

 

Plans moving forward depend on compliance and a sympathetic government

 

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    For now, smoking cannabis in some non-private areas will be legal from as soon as 1st April, while possession will also be legalised. Cannabis clubs are expected to start operating in July.

    These will permit up to 500 members to join, though membership will require proof of German residency, and younger members will face further restrictions on purchases. The plan will also allow for home cultivation of up to three plants – though possession of a total of just 50 g of cannabis is permitted, which is a cause for concern, given how much could theoretically be produced from a three-plant grow.

    The two factors – potential excess home growth and limits on cannabis club memberships – have stoked fears of increased black market sales, particularly in areas that attract a lot of tourism.

    The German government said it will assess the impact of the law as part of its two-pillar approach to legalisation. It hopes to bring in full commercial sales at some point. But that goal is still a significant amount of time off with no guarantee of a continued sympathetic government.

    Legalisation already faces strong internal opposition, particularly from the southern state of Bavaria, and conservative politicians have promised they will rescind legalisation if elected to government next year.

    However, that particular vow may be hard to fulfil. Pandora’s box has now officially been opened and it may be hard to put that smoke back in once it has escaped.

    – Freddie Dawson CannIntelligence staff

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    Flag map art: Kjrstie

    Freddie Dawson

    Managing editor, news
    Freddie studied at King’s College, London and City University and worked for publications including The Times, The Malay Mail, PathfinderBuzz and Solar Summary before joining the ECigIntelligence team. He has extensive experience in covering fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), manufacturing and technological innovation.