Germany presents watered-down cannabis law reform

Draft bill scales back ambitious plans to permit the sale of cannabis in licensed outlets

Germany has presented plans to liberalise its drug laws to allow possession of up to 25g of cannabis for personal use, bought from non-profit clubs.

The draft bill, presented on Wednesday before a parliamentary vote, scales back ambitious plans to permit the sale of cannabis in licensed outlets.

Federal health minister, Karl Lauterbach, said the focus for now was on “controlled supply, for personal use, from non-profit clubs with a maximum of 500 members.

“The goal is to dry out the black market and improve youth protection,” said Dr Lauterbach. “The previous cannabis policy has failed. Now, we have to take a new path.”


Far from limiting consumption, he said Germany’s decades-old restrictive approach had created a thriving black market of impure cannabis that “created additional health problems”.

Under the proposals, people aged at least 18 will be allowed buy up to 50g a month from their club but not consume it on the premises or in public before 8pm. Young people between 18 and 21 will only be permitted 30g, while the cannabis sold will be required to have a limited concentration of psychoactive substances.

All clubs will be required to keep a minimum distance from schools and childcare facilities. In addition, individuals will be allowed cultivate up to three marijuana plants at home for personal use.

Federal justice minister, Marco Buschmann, said he hoped the legalisation proposals would ease the burden on police and end the “criminalisation of countless people”.

Berlin’s ruling coalition hope for the legislation to be passed in the autumn.

Their original plan promised licensed stores or cafes selling cannabis in controlled dosages.

The plans were watered down after concerns were raised by the European Commission.

Dr Lauterbach declined to go into detail over the concerns but said he was hopeful the licensed stores could be permitted in five-year open-ended pilot projects.

A 2004 European Council decision obliges member states to ensure that the sale of drugs, including cannabis, are punishable using “effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal penalties”.

Meanwhile, the Schengen agreement obliges signatories to curtail the illegal export, sale and supply of “narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, including cannabis”.

Bavaria’s centre-right Christian Social Union (CSU), facing re-election in the autumn, attacked the proposals for “playing down the risks of the gateway drug, cannabis”.

Germany’s medical council described the planned cannabis social clubs as “grotesque”.

Equally, critical were pro-cannabis groups and companies such as Sanity, which produces cannabis-based medical and cosmetic products.

“The government has fallen well short in the draft proposals presented today,” said Finn Hänsel, chief executive of Sanity.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin