WITH negotiations underway on the formation of a new German government supporters of a regulated adult-use cannabis market believe a significant moment in European history beckons.
There is a growing sense that what may have once seemed fanciful – even just a few months ago – is now within touching distance.
One of Germany’s most senior cannabis business leaders says with a so-called ‘Traffic Light Coalition’ there is a ‘strong likelihood’ of adult-use cannabis legalisation.
And, one experienced commentator on the German cannabis scene, is even predicting the date of the opening of Europe’s first adult-use cannabis dispensary – January 1, 2024.
Finn Hansel, Managing Director and Co-Founder, of leading German cannabis business Sanity Group, which helped found trade associations for both the CBD and medical cannabis industries, says both of these bodies are currently involved in talks with the potential coalition parties.
“These politicians need to fill the fiscal black hole left by Covid-19 and annual revenues from a cannabis tax, estimated at around €6bn a year are a big attraction.”
He highlighted how this would be a new tax, one which wouldn’t hurt any interest groups – ‘other than the black market’.
“There is a lot of interest in this particularly from the Greens and the liberals (the FDP) and this could be a great new period for Germany when it comes to cannabis legalisation,” he said.
He highlighted the moves away from prohibition elsewhere on the Continent with France and the Czech Republic opening up on industrial hemp, Switzerland undertaking adult-use city trials and Luxembourg moving towards a regulated market.
And added: “German politicians have historically not been very brave. They like to see what is working in other countries and then copy. So, it will be a big step to fully legalise, but with this constellation in politics and their political programmes, there is a very strong likelihood, in my opinion.
“This is an historic moment. If Germany does it – the biggest economy of the continent, at the centre of the continent. If Germany says ‘we will legalise cannabis’ this will have a huge effect on all of the other countries around – it will be historic.”
German cannabis lawyer and author of the ‘Recreational THC Report 2021 for Germany’ Kai-Friedrich Niermann believes the path is now clear for significant cannabis reform.
He said: “For the first time, it is likely that two parties with a clear strategy for cannabis legalisation will be part of a new federal government.
“In this Traffic Light Coalition, cannabis will be legalized without prior trial projects, or at best trial projects to prepare for the introduction of the change in the law at the beginning of 2024.
“The FDP and the Greens have clearly positioned themselves in favour of legalisation, with the Greens’ Cannabis Control Act already providing a regulatory blueprint.
“I predict that the first dispensary – for recreational cannabis will open at New Year’s morning 2024.”
While the cannabis-backing Green Party’s electoral surge faded over the summer months the poor showing by Chancellor Merkel’s governing Christian Democrats (CDU) and its Bavarian affiliates has removed the main stumbling block for significant cannabis reform.
Working together the Greens and the Free Democrat Party (FDP) with a cumulative 210 parliamentary seats are the largest block in the Bundestag, with both behind an adult-use cannabis market.
The two, who have been working together in the Bundestag for years, are currently in bilateral discussions before talking to their potential suitors – the Social Democrats (SPD), who claimed 206 seats, and the CDU, with 196.
While the Green’s veer to the left and the FDP subscribes to a low-tax, economically-liberal mandate the parties have much in common with similar foreign policies and stances on social issues such recreational cannabis and gender self-ID.
The Greens have drafted their own adult-use regulations and the FDP leader Christian Lindner, when asked which project would be easiest to implement with the Greens, answered the ‘legalisation of cannabis’.
This 210-seat block is understood to be in talks with poll winners the SPD led by Olaf Scholz, whose 206 seats equate to 25.7% of the vote.
The SPD is a left-leaning party similar in many regards to a Blairite/Kier Starmer-led UK Labour Party. The SPD has previously proposed undertaking adult-use trials in German cities.
Such a Traffic Light Coalition – red (SPD), yellow (FDP) and green – will deliver a cumulative 416 seats well above the 368 required for an overall majority.
What Happens Next?
The FDP made a significant play on its approach to cannabis during the Election placing adverts on Instagram and Facebook.
The Green Party has for some time been a known supporter of adult-use legislation having produced its own paper on the subject – the Cannabis Control Act.
While prospective partners the SPD never mentioned cannabis during the campaign, earlier this year it floated the possibility of regional trials.
Despite the CDU saying it will not legalise any additional drugs during the campaign, if it does enter a coalition with the Greens and FDP many believe it will consent to adult-use trials.
A Jamaican Coalition (black, yellow & green) with the CDU (black) is still a possibility although the most likely scenario appears to be the Traffic Light Coalition with the SPD.
Coalition talks are set to continue for some time – possibly into the New Year – as the parties look for comprise and common ground across the whole range of economic – taxation and spending – foreign and domestic policy issues.
Being the largest block gives the Green/FDP alliance a formidable negotiating position. Mr Lindner is said to covet the finance ministry, whilst his Green counterparts, Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck, are said to be eyeing the foreign ministry and a new ‘super-ministry’ of environment and business.
Mr Hansel added: “The most likely constellation is the medium left coalition – the traffic light – with two parties notably for cannabis and one mildly for it. I think something really big will happen this legislative period.”
Further Industry Reaction
Jürgen Neumeyer, is Managing Director of the German Cannabis Industry Association (BvCW) which has almost 50 members across the cannabis value chain.
As a trade body it has focused on the medical cannabis, hemp and CBD markets and is now looking to the potential of adult-use.
He said: “Whilst the SDP has not come out in favour of adult-use cannabis its youth section has done so.
“This election has seen a lot of new and younger people entering parliament, many of these were socialised in the youth organisation of the the SDP so there is a good chance we will see adult-use cannabis with the Traffic Light Coalition.”
He believes the technicalities of an adult-use policy – advertising, protection of the youth, taxes, points of sale, cultivation, quality control, dosage and in what form – will take some time to determine.
Philip Schetter, Managing Director of German medical cannabis wholesale distributor and manufacturer Cantourage, said cannabis had played a part in the campaign
It featured as one the 40 questions in a popular on-line tool to help voters decide which party best represents their interests and one of the first questions to Armin Laschet (leader of the CDU) on a popular TV show was: “What’s your position on the legalisation of cannabis?”
He said: “The Greens and the Liberals will most definitely be part of the next government – both are pushing for legalisation
“There are some discrepancies between the Greens, the Liberals, and the Social Democrats – however, and they are looking for projects they all support; cannabis legalisation could be one of them.”
Brothers Jakob and Benedikt Sons, founders of medical cannabis wholesaler Cansativa, welcomed developments. Jakob said: “We assume that something will happen to cannabis because it is obvious that with the Liberals (FDP), the SDP and the Greens, two parties will be part of the government that have an agenda for cannabis.
“Both parties (Liberals and Greens) have a plan to liberalise, decriminalise and further push cannabis into a legal framework.
“And, as those parties will now be part of the government, which is very likely, even if it might be the CDU or SDP that enter into a coalition with the Greens and the Liberals, it is clear that the Greens and the Liberals are in.
“If you look at the Greens and the Liberals in general, they are quite different but they are united in cannabis. It is one of the few points that they will easily have an agreement on.
“That is why we assume there will be this development. It is not the most important topic we have in Germany, but it is a topic that is on the political agenda of those parties. If you ask me I would say in 24 months we will see something happen.”
Benedikt describes it as an ‘exciting time’ saying he “truly believes there will be further liberalisation and legalisation of cannabis throughout Germany.”