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‘Difficulty in the Details’ Sees Germany’s Cannabis Act Delayed By Months

Germany’s landmark Cannabis Act (CanG), which would establish an adult-use cannabis framework in the  European Union’s most populous country, has been pushed back by a number of months.

Following suggestions from local and social media earlier this week, the delay of the final reading of the bill, originally set to take place this week, has been officially confirmed.

This means that plans repeatedly cited by the traffic light coalition to bring the bill into law by January 01, 2024, have now been scrapped, with the industry now expected to have to wait until at least March, 2024 for the bill to be enacted.

While those working on the groundbreaking legislation have suggested the extra time is necessary to ensure the act is able to achieve its core aims, ‘far reaching changes’ are still required, and questions have been raised around potential further delays.

What happened?

On October 20, Business of Cannabis reported that the bill had made it through its first  parliamentary debate in the Bundestag (German Parliament).

This marked the first of three debates or ‘readings’ which take place before the bill can be brought into law, the primary goal of which is to designate special committees which will take the points raised into account, and vote on changes ahead of the second reading.

The dates were set for the Health Committee to consider proposals on November 06, before the bill was scheduled to make its second and third hearings on November 16, before being brought into law.

On November 06, experts from the medical, legal, security and hemp sectors answered final questions from MPs in a two hour hearing in the Bundestag’s Health Committee.

With the working group then tasked with evaluating the points raised in the hearing, alongside the 40+ statements submitted by the relevant organisations, the mammoth and increasingly unrealistic task of coming to an agreement before November 16 became apparent.

As the Legal Tribune Online (LTO) reported, few, if any of the glaring questions surrounding the bill, such as how to navigate the 200m consumption rule, and whether the 25g limit applies to home cultivation, have been answered.

Furthermore, fractures in position between the various elements of the coalition working group were becoming more apparent, with parliamentarians warning that the hearing made it clear ‘far-reaching changes’ were needed before the current draft was ready.

With doubts increasing as to whether a consensus could be reached between the parties on these complex issues, statements from various government officials began to make it onto social media throughout the week suggesting the final hearing would no longer take place on November 16.

On November 10, the Social Democratic Party’s (SDP) Carmen Wegge announced on X (formerly Twitter), that CannG ‘will be decided in December’, adding that this means the government was ‘not keeping to schedule’, acknowledging that this would be a ‘huge disappointment for many’.

Green politician Kirsten Kappert-Gonther then followed this with a similar tweet, stating that the bill will come ‘just a little later’, and that she was confident the law would become ‘significantly better as a result of the discussions’.

“Some wording still needs to be worked on on some points. This is for a good cause, quality comes before time pressure. Completion scheduled for December.”

Another SPD member, Dirk Heidenblut, also published a now-deleted posts to his Instagram, offering some more detail on a new prospective timescale.

He said: “Unfortunately, my confidence was unfounded. As always, the difficulty lies in the details and it still takes time to properly develop the necessary committee submissions. Therefore, CanG cannot now be used next week, but only in the 50th week. That means the Federal Council doesn’t start until February, so it doesn’t start until March 1st, 2024.”

The German Press Agency (DPA) subsequently confirmed that it had received confirmation from the government of the delay.

What happens now?

While the date of the final hearing in the Bundestag has only been pushed back a month, with a new prospective date of between December 13 and December 15 put forward, the bill still needs to be considered by the Bundresrat (Federal Council).

Although this is largely a formality, and the Bundesrat has no power to stop the bill in its tracks once it’s passed the Bundestag, the state chamber’s last session is scheduled for December 15.

With the Federal Council not due to meet again until February 02, 2024, the final approval of the bill will therefore have to come after this date.

Suggestions have been made that this could mean the bill will come into force on March 01, but government sources speaking to the DPA have suggested April 01, 2024 could be a more realistic start date for Germany’s Pillar 1.

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