German Cannabis Legalization Plans LEAKS – Volteface

Key aspects of the German government’s plans to create a legalized recreational cannabis market, following in the footsteps of countries such as Canada, Malta and Mexico, have been leaked.

These are both unofficial announcements and early-stage proposals and should therefore be treated with caution, but they give us some insight into the likely direction of the final plans, as well as influences and priorities coming from the government.

Key details that leaked include:

  • A maximum possession threshold of 20g.
  • An allowance for home cultivation of up to 2 plants.
  • A mix of outlets to buy, including retail at licensed stores, pharmacies and online options.
  • A maximum limit of 15% THC, with a lower limit of 10% for 18-21 year olds.
  • A total advertising ban.
  • Introduction of unbranded cigarette-style packaging.
  • A progressive tax based on the level of THC.
  • No import of cannabis is allowed – all must be grown in Germany
  • Those under 18 caught in possession of cannabis will not be criminalized (cannabis will be confiscated and compulsory courses)
  • The location of cannabis dispensaries must be regulated, with minimum distances from schools, establishments for children and adolescents.

These proposals, presented by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, are currently being developed between several federal government departments. The proposals have sparked discussion among activists, advocacy groups and industry. Last month, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner suggested cannabis could be legalized as early as next year, but Drugs Commissioner Burkhard Blienert said the law was unlikely to come into force before 2024 at the earliest. The government is due to present a bill to the German parliament in the coming months.

Alastair Moore, co-founder of Hanway Associates commented “Ssome positives in this new leak to the German press, but until we see the final document, it’s hard to know what will stick. Somewhere in Berlin, political strategists will likely be watching closely for reaction to the announced direction of the legislation.


The German government has made it clear that its regulatory model will focus on public health, and many of the measures listed above – such as advertising bans, plain packaging and lower THC limits for young people – reflect this. . As we are still in the very early stages of the process, there are very few details on how the regulations will be enforced and the penalties for breaches.

We also don’t have details on whether certain rules and regulations might change as the legal market (hopefully) overtakes the illicit market in the coming years. So-called ‘sunset’ clauses in legislation – such as those seen in the UK’s Brexit and COVID laws – could be a key tool to ensure rules and regulations adapt to changing market and changing environments. societal. This makes it more difficult to discuss the merits of measures such as the maximum amount of cannabis allowed to be owned, the number of plants allowed to be grown at home, and the THC percentage limit.

Nonetheless, a proposed possession threshold of 20g is relatively low, as is a limit of only 2 plants allowed to be grown at home. In Canada and Malta, growing up to 4 plants at home is allowed, while in Uruguay the limit is 6. In terms of possession allowances, in the US state of Colorado you can legally possess up to 56 grams and in California it is 28.5 grams. . Whereas in South Africa it is up to 600 grams, but in Malta it is only 7g (up to 50g in a domestic setting). There is a 5g allowance in Mexico, but it has only been decriminalized, not fully legalized.

Sales will be subject to both VAT and a specific cannabis tax, which will be based on the THC content. These proposals are similar to existing laws on products like alcohol, where in the UK there are different levels of tax for products of different strengths. Potency regulations are likely to be one of the most contentious points, as many people point out that the THC levels on offer are far lower than those found on the illegal market, and even lower than the levels found in the current supply of medical cannabis in Germany.

But there are other points of interest. As Steve Rolles pointed out, these proposals lack a lot of detail, especially with respect to fairness and delisting issues. With the recent announcement that US President Biden has pardoned all federal cannabis possession charges, there will be pressure on the German government to adopt similar measures.

Policy proposals like this are essential if social justice is to be enacted through reforms like this, undoing much of the damage done by decades of prohibition and criminalization. Many will be disappointed not to see any details of these proposals at this stage.

You can read all of his thoughts in a thread linked below.

Some have also expressed concerns about how some of the measures listed above could impact the ability of the legal market to tackle the illegal market and deprive illegal producers of market share. So far, the legalization of cannabis in countries and territories around the world has had mixed success, often due to poorly designed or overly restrictive regulations that have made production unviable, meaning many still get their product. of the illegal market, even in places where legal means exist. .

Even a decade after implementing their reforms, in Uruguay – the first regulated market for adults – illicit and locally grown cannabis accounts for more than three-quarters of the market. Similarly, in Canada, more than half still comes from the black market. In California, it is estimated at 55%. The main factors for effectively defeating the illicit market are price, potency, and accessibility.

Allocation for online sales is another key point highlighted in the proposals, given the need to facilitate access to legal cannabis products if the displacement of illegal production and purchase is to succeed.

Reacting to current events, Lily Temperton, Head of Analytics at Hanway Associates and First Wednesdays said:

“While health concerns about high potency products need to be heard, capping legal products below the strength that most consumers are used to will alienate heavy cannabis consumers in particular, who account for the vast majority of sales. according to the Pareto principle. If harm reduction is the rationale behind this decision, why restrict opportunities to innovate in non-combustion formats like extracts, vapes, and edibles?

What is even more frustrating is that there are many case studies on which German regulators can base their recommendations. In the words of the State of Vermont Cannabis Control Board, “high-THC cannabis constitutes the majority of products sold in the medical cannabis and illicit markets.” Lower the THC cap to 15% [from 30%] would only perpetuate the unregulated market and force consumers to buy untested and potentially contaminated products.

Spiros Malandrakis, Head of Research at Euromonitor International said:

“Reflecting the inherent risk aversion and product of – ongoing – negotiations and compromise that is synonymous with German political discourse, the long-awaited first draft of the landmark cannabis legalization law has now entered the public sphere.The clear commitment to radical change, strong support for specialist outlets and dispensaries rather than confining sales around pharmacies, and the implicit openness to consumer fairs are all fundamental to building a sustainable industry while opening up the path to normalization.

On the other hand, a startling fetishization of THC content and the introduction of a 15% cap alongside suggestions for plain packaging and blanket advertising bans may prove detrimental to the value of brand and eventually become a boon to the black market. BBearing in mind that this is still a draft law rather than a finalized law, the historical significance of this first step cannot be underestimated. The prohibition wall is finally collapsing, now is the time for the hardest part of building an industry from the foundation.

Eliminating the illicit market, controlling and reducing youth consumption to the lowest possible levels, and repairing the damage caused by decades of prohibition and criminalization must be the main policy objectives of any legal and regulated market. While we await more details on the German model, this first slice of detail has been met with mixed responses. All in all, this seems like a good start to ensuring that unfettered capitalism will not be allowed to take hold in any German cannabis market, but questions remain as to whether this model can compete with leviathan. what is illegal drug trafficking – the freest, most responsive and adaptable market in the world.

For an overview of recreational cannabis laws in Europe in 2022, check out our recent roundup here. And you can do the same for medical cannabis laws here.

This piece was written by Jay Jackson, head of Policy & Public Affairs at Volteface. Tweets @wordsbyjayj

James R. Rhodes