The first controlled trial use of cannabis for medical purposes in Germany was in February of 2008. Compassionate medical access to cannabis was expanded in 2016 to include all patients “having no therapeutic alternative”. The present legal framework for medical usage dates to March 10th, 2017 when access was expanded to all “seriously ill” patients with a physician’s prescription and obtained through a pharmacy. This has given rise to effective medical cannabis impact and intermediate-scale production data
Recreational cannabis remains illegal. Despite this, however, recreational usage is widespread throughout the country fueled by thriving illegal production and importation. Globally this is a familiar story with Canada being a case in point.
What are the objectives of legalization? Youth safety, public safety (driving!), removal of criminal resources, product quality control, medical and social data, reducing stress on the justice system and tax revenues. Experience has shown that achieving these objectives outweighs the costs and benefits of continued criminalization. The German government is well aware of this.
In January 2022, the German Federal Justice Minister stated that the ministry would proceed with drafting cannabis regulations but, understanding that the legal framework must be intertwined with public health concerns, also stated that the date of legalization would be up to the Ministry of Health.
The model will likely resemble Canada with the government issuing licenses for controlled production (large scale commercial and possibly personal cultivation) with distribution through retail shops and pharmacies. This will be coupled with scheduled regulatory compliance and public health and safety reviews.
What is the time frame for legalization? Unknown. Given the unresolved impact of a multiyear global pandemic as well as the potential for a spreading military conflict in Europe, it is unclear whether cannabis will be a top priority for the government. Parliamentary advocacy groups will surely be emphasizing the positive tax and employment benefits and will likely find an attentive audience.
The economic implications
What about the German cannabis market? Let’s add it up. A population of 80 million people. An affluent GDP of approximately 4 trillion EU. Cannabis recreational users are in the range of 7 percent of the population (likely an underestimate due to criminalization biased statistics). Present medical cannabis users are estimated at over 120,000 patients (probably closer to 800,000). A pro-cannabis government. Genius-level engineering and a strong green energy policy. The German cannabis market potential is huge and the industry and investors are poised.
Legalization in Germany must and will happen, the only question is when.