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German Government to Hold Hearings on Recreational Cannabis Reform

There is certainly something to be said about German cannabis reform that the rest of the world—and in particular, the U.S.—can learn from. Although this issue was slow to progress since 2017, the government has made a swift move to adopt a new policy.

The government last week announced funding for ten federal posts to supervise the new market. The BfArM will house two of the new positions. Eight more will fall under the Ministry of Health. BfArM, an agency that falls within the umbrella of the health ministry, is a distinction of bureaucratic semantics. This is Germany. It’s the land of bureaucratic hair-splitting.

Yesterday the Health Ministry announced the opening of the first of five hearings. The process will continue for the entire month of June. More than 200 people are expected to take part—drawn from medical, legal, and business verticals, along with government officials and “international experts.”

The Ministry was told in a typically German and blunt fashion by the Bundestag budget committee last month that it was tasked with introduction of a bill that would be passable by the end of the year—or they would lose a million euros allocated for their PR budget.

The European Impact of German Recreational Reform

Although nothing can be certain except for death and taxes it seems highly probable that the German recreational reforms will become law by this year’s end. The question of when the actual market opens is another. Sales could delay until 2024, as can Canada or at the state level in Colorado and Washington. 

Decriminalization is another crucial element of legalization that must be determined. This topic will touch on everything related to sales, from setting up brick-and mortar dispensaries to the more complex issue of selling online. It is important to clear both past convictions and pending legal cases. About 200 cases are pending against CBD business owners, while more than 185,000 have been filed against individual CBD users, many of which involve non-violent cultivation or possession.

Beyond domestic impact—which also includes the creation of a regulatory structure for commercial cultivation, processing, packaging, and distribution beyond sales—there is another issue now front and center in this discussion and impacts the conversation across Europe. Namely, where is the wealthiest country in E.U. will source its recreational product—particularly until domestic cultivation is harvested. They will not produce enough for the domestic market, no matter how many new plants are started by any of the three winners of medical bids. It also suggests that the feeder markets, which include those who source medical-grade flower from Greece and Portugal, will be ready to fill in.

This is expected to lead to further reforms within most of the E.U. countries—especially those now on the brink of reform anyway. Since Germany’s announcement of an expedited timeline this spring, Portugal and Luxembourg already have made progress in recreational reform. These are not the only European countries that will take action. These are valuable export crops not only for countries of the developing world but for many other European nations. Spain is among them.

What will be the International Impact of this?

The impact of Germany becoming full Monty recreational is not limited to the countries in Europe. Canada is only half its population.

Apart from the domestic market and the inevitable topic of exports, it is also inevitable that political reform here will drive the issue in other places—starting with the U.S. (at minimum). 

The Germans are capable of it and there has been five years since federal reforms of medical care (which have not occurred in the U.S. yet), this conversation can be continued anywhere.

This could also signal the start of further negotiations at UN Level, which has been stalled for many years. It is closer now than ever before the international ban on cannabis was implemented after WWI.

Ironically, it is possible that the country losing both global conflicts in the past century could be remembered for being the pioneering force behind the right and winning side of history regarding cannabis.