When thinking about the latest developments of medical marijuana in Europe, Germany is potentially one of the main countries that comes to mind. When the German government decided to fully legalise medical marijuana as one of the first countries within the European Union, it undoubtedly came as a welcoming surprise for many cannabis enthusiasts around the world.
Since 10th March, 2017, German doctors are allowed to prescribe marijuana flowers or cannabis-based drugs for more than 60 different illnesses and conditions — including minor conditions such as migraines, headaches and ADHD. As of mid-2019, close to 100,000 German patients may benefit from the updated legislation.
Medicinal marijuana seems to be on a tremendous, triumphal march in Germany, which clearly indicates that the country is at the brink of completely legalising marijuana for recreational purposes. But is this really the truth?
Why Germany could soon legalise marijuana
European medical marijuana hub
As already mentioned, Germany was essentially elevated to a European medical cannabis epicentre in 2017. There is no other country in Europe with more medical marijuana patients, which is leading to immense challenges for suppliers and distributors. According to Handelsblatt, the domestic market for medicinal cannabis could reach more than €6 billion in annual sales by 2030.
Since these amounts are still being imported solely from the Netherlands and Canada, the country recently issued the first three licenses for professional medical marijuana production. These licenses were awarded to three major Canadian cannabis corporations, known as Aurora Cannabis, the Wayland Group (in collaboration with the German company Demecan) and Aphria Inc.
Politics are heating up
With the medical marijuana industry absolutely booming and the first success stories of recreational marijuana programs coming from overseas, German politics are increasingly warming up to the legalisation of marijuana in Germany.
Three of the five most established parties, the green party (Die Grünen), the liberal party (FPD) and the left-wing party (Die Linke), are officially advocating for legalisation. Moreover, numerous state associations of the second biggest party in Germany, the social democrats (SPD), are supporting legalisation as well.
When taking a closer look at the developments of the past few years, one could suspect that the favorable opinion of many German politicians might be a result of the excellent work conducted by the German cannabis lobby. While there are undoubtedly many actors in the scene, interested readers should, in particular, take a brief look at two characters:
Georg Wurth, the president of the German Hemp Association (DHV), who is tenaciously representing the interests of German cannabis enthusiasts as well as Germany’s toughest youth judge Andreas Mueller, who is able to back up his arguments with unique experiences from his occupation.
Additionally, the Association of German Police Officers (BDK) recently stated that they are actively supporting the decriminalisation of marijuana for personal use, potentially even measures beyond that. Consequently, one can definitely say that the movement is gaining more and more traction, even with long term opponents of recreational cannabis.
Legal marijuana pilots
Although marijuana is still illegal in Germany, a controlled distribution of recreational marijuana in smaller test environments has been frequently discussed by various German cities. As of now, at least four cities are actively working on recreational cannabis projects, including Cologne, Dusseldorf, Munster and Berlin.
Why Germany won’t legalise marijuana in the near future
While these accomplishments can certainly be considered as a huge leap towards the national legalisation of cannabis, there are also two sides to every coin. Now it’s time to inspect the dark side of the moon.
The truth about the medical marijuana program
The legalisation of medicinal cannabis in Germany is, without a doubt, a big success in itself, but, unfortunately, there are various issues connected to the program in real life. A major problem can currently be found in hundreds of thousands of patients not being able to get a prescription for medical cannabis. The reason for this is connected to the German health system:
Since German health insurances currently decline about one-third of all cannabis prescription claims submitted by German doctors, both patients and medical practitioners find themselves in a very difficult situation. Due to the fact that the German government only allows imported marijuana, the prices for pharmaceutical cannabis are astronomically high and way out of reach for the average patient.
As a consequence, doctors often prescribe other drugs when insurances decline to take over the costs for the medicine. Furthermore, medical doctors encounter several other obstacles when prescribing medical marijuana to patients. In a recent interview with Leafly Germany, a German doctor, whose name Leafly changed to MD Schlueter, explained that prescribing medicinal cannabis is subject to various bureaucratic hurdles, legal dangers and a lower compensation compared to other drugs.
‘Even if it sounds bitter, in my daily practice I just do not have time to look after cannabis patients.’ – Dr. Schlueter
Ongoing police madness
It is a common belief that smaller possessions of cannabis are basically decriminalised in Germany. However, when taking a look at the current situation, this is unquestionably wrong. As publicly stated in the official crime statistics of 2018, published by the German police in April 2019, criminal proceedings for cannabis-related crimes increased by 6.7 percent in comparison to 2017, marking an all-time-high for cannabis delicts.
Despite the fact that German authorities often stated that the police is focusing on large-scale cannabis distributors, more than 80 percent of all registered cannabis crimes are tied to small consumers. A very recent incident of harsh police actions was disclosed in April 2019. When the German police discovered 0.63 grams of hashish in possession of a 60-year-old disabled man, the policemen subsequently raided his house. Although the officials did not find any other illegal objects, the man was still convicted for illegal possession of cannabis.
Another controversial event occurred when the office of a German doctor was raided by the police due to a falsely interpreted situation. Apart from that, there are numerous reports of the police raiding legal CBD and industrial hemp shops across Germany. During a series of 14 CBD-related raids in Munich, Vice Germany reported about a tiny hemp-selling kiosk which was searched by 40 policemen.
The true opinion of most German politicians
It’s true that there are already three established parties that support the national legalisation of cannabis. Unfortunately, the three (currently) most dominant parties in Germany are either against it or simply don’t want to release a public statement about it. Here are the statements of the three German parties with the best election results:
Conservative party (CDU/CSU)
Election results: 33.0% (2017)
The ensemble of the CDU and the CSU is traditionally against the decriminalisation and legalisation of marijuana. Marlene Mortler (CDU), the notorious federal drug-commissioner, is known for her strict position against all illegal drugs and once famously said, ‘cannabis is banned because it’s illegal.’
Social-democratic party (SPD)
Election results: 20.5% (2017)
In spite of the fact that there are many members and associations within the SPD that actively support the legalisation of cannabis, the party as a whole does currently not have an official position in regard to cannabis. However, the party is supporting the current legislation.
National-conservatism party (AfD)
Election results: 12.6% (2017)
In its election program of 2017, the AfD stated that it does not support the further legalisation of cannabis or other drugs. Moreover, the party recently declared to be sceptic of the medical marijuana program and questioned the benefits of cannabis as medicine.
Source for election results: Bundeswahlleiter
When can we realistically expect legalisation?
Due to the unfavourable positions of the current German government, the decriminalisation, let alone legalisation of cannabis seems very unlikely within the next two to three years. That being said, the upcoming federal elections in 2021 could mark a potential turning point in German history.
Since more and more German citizens are affected by grim police actions and influencers as well as educational platforms (like Strain Insider) are educating the population about the benefits and real dangers of marijuana, the topic could possibly become a considerable voting aspect in the next election. When taking a look at the latest survey results concerning a federal election, the political landscape of Germany is at a completely different level than it was in 2017. According to recent surveys, the green party (Die Grünen), attracts around 20 percent of all voters, making it the second strongest force in the parliament.
These situations certainly increase the likelihood of cannabis legalisation in Germany during the following government session. Considering that it took Canada almost a year from passing the legalisation bill to actually putting it into practice, the earliest year for nationwide allowance of marijuana in Germany would be 2022. At the very least, we can expect the topic to be discussed more extensively within all relevant political parties from 2021.