There is certainly something to be said for the German cannabis reform that the rest of the world, and in particular the United States, can learn from. The issue may have dragged on excruciatingly slowly since 2017, but now that they’ve decided to, the government is moving pretty quickly to implement a new policy.
Last week the government announcement that ten new federal positions would be funded to oversee the new market. Two will be at BfArM, the agency for medicines and medical devices where the current Cannabis Agency is located, and eight others will report directly to the Ministry of Health. The distinction is one of bureaucratic semantics as the BfArM is an independent agency under the umbrella of the Ministry of Health. However, it is Germany, a country of bureaucracy that is splitting its hair.
Yesterday the Department of Health also announced that it would start the first of five hearings today, with the process due to last the whole month of June. More than 200 people are expected to attend, drawn from the medical, legal and business sectors, as well as government officials and “international experts”.
Last month, the ministry was told in typically German, blunt fashion by the Bundestag’s budget committee that it was tasked with presenting a bill that would be passed by the end of the year, otherwise it would lose a million euros allocated to its public relations budget. .
The impact of German recreational reform in Europe
Although nothing is ever set apart from death and taxes, it is highly likely that the German recreation reform will pass by the end of this year. When the actual market starts is another question. As in Canada, or at the state level, Colorado and Washington State, sales could be delayed until early 2024.
There are also other critical elements of legalization to be decided, such as decriminalization. Sales will be a big topic and range from how brick-and-mortar dispensaries will be set up to the ever thorny issue of online sales. Clearing previous convictions as well as ongoing court cases is also a priority. There are approximately 200 ongoing criminal cases against legitimate CBD businesses and over 185,000 against individuals, mostly for non-violent, personal cultivation and possession.
Beyond the national impact – which also includes the creation of a regulatory structure for commercial cultivation, processing, packaging and distribution beyond sales – there is another issue now at the center of this discussion and impacting the conversation across Europe. Namely where the wealthiest country in the EU will source its recreational products, especially until the national crop is harvested. No matter how much new crop the three medical bid winners initiate, they won’t be able to produce enough to supply the domestic market (nor should they be allowed to try). It also seems to indicate that feeder markets, including growers now sourcing medical-grade flowers from countries such as Portugal and Greece, are ready to step into the breach.
It is also likely to drive further reform in most, if not all, other EU countries, especially those that are on the verge of reform anyway. Portugal and Luxembourg have already announced progress on leisure reform since Germany announced an accelerated timetable this spring. They are unlikely to be the only countries in Europe to act. It is a valuable export crop not only for developing countries, but also for many European countries. Spain is one of them.
What will be the international impact?
Beyond the immediate states of Europe, the impact of Germany at full recreational Monty will be massive. Its population is twice the size of Canada.
Besides the domestic market and the inevitable subject of exports, it is also inevitable that political reform here will bring the problem to other places, starting with the United States (at the very least).
If the Germans can do it, and within five years of federal medical-like reform (which has yet to happen in the United States), there’s not much to hold this conversation anywhere else.
What this may as well portend are new discussions at the UN level, where reform has been launched for several years now. The removal of cannabis from a Schedule I drug is now closer than it was since before the international ban that began to be implemented around the world after the First World War.
Ironically enough, the country that lost both world wars of the last century may well go down in history as the revolutionary force on the winning side and on the right side of history when it comes to cannabis.