European Cannabis Round-Up: Expert Opinion Deems Germany’s Adult-Use Strategy Illegal, Spain To Quadruple Medical Cannabis Production, & Malta Tackles Cannabis Banking

Germany’s current plans for legalisation deemed illegal by ‘expert opinion’

A NEW ‘expert opinion’ penned by the Chair of Public Law and European Law at the Friedrich Alexander University of Erlangen, Bernhard Wegener, suggests that Germany’s current plans for cannabis legalisation ‘contradict international and European law’.

The 53-page scientific report was commissioned by the State Health Minister Klaus Holetschek of the CSU, which is generally opposed to the country’s legalisation push.

The largely scathing report suggests that the Traffic Light Coalition’s proposals, which are currently only outlines, violate UN Conventions on Drug Control, in particular the 1988 United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

Mr Wegener argues that the ‘government’s legalisation plan ignores the limits of national drug policy under international and European law’, and threatened to miss the goals pursued by the federal government from the outset.

Mr Holeschek, who has fought against the government’s plans for months, called on the government to ‘drop their plans immediately and instead devote all their energy to the important challenges of our healthcare system: hospital reform, nursing care reform, shortage of skilled workers, digitization – to name just a few’.

Kristine Lütke, addiction and drug policy spokeswoman for the FDP, accused Mr Holetschek of being on an ‘anti-cannabis campaign’, adding that she was confident that when the first draft law on cannabis legalisation by Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) is published later this month, it would become clear ‘how the controlled release of cannabis for recreational purposes can be implemented with legal certainty’.

Spain to quadruple medical cannabis production despite lack of regulations  

Spain’s Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS) announced last week that it expects medical cannabis production in the country to quadruple this year, despite the agency now being months overdue on delivering official regulations for the medical cannabis industry.

According to submissions to the International Narcotics Board (INCB) of the United Nations, AEMPS expects 23,425kg of medical cannabis to be grown in Spain this year to meet demand, more than four times the 6,000kg forecast in 2022, which in turn was 10 times the 600kg forecast in 2021, Politico reported.

Just over 80% of this is expected to go towards the manufacture of cannabis-derived products and for export to other countries, while the remaining 19% will be for research purposes.

This level of production would make Spain the 11th largest producer of medical cannabis in the world, but the only country among those which does not currently have a regulatory framework in place.

As BusinessCann reported in January, AEMPS was given six months to prepare a document with recommendations on how to legally fit a proposed framework for medical cannabis, passed by the Health and Consumption Commission of the Congress of Deputies in June 2022, into law.

The initial deadline of December 27, 2022 has now come and gone, with the Spanish government remaining tight-lipped about the reasons behind the delay, and when this legislation could be enacted, ever since.

The PNV, the party responsible for spearheading the advancement of medical cannabis regulation thus far, has now submitted a written question to the government in a bid to find out what progress has been made by AEMPS.

Sources from the government department say that progress is ‘very advanced’ and will be presented ‘shortly’.

In other news from Spain, a proposal put forward by the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) aiming to decriminalise cannabis and allow for recreational use and home cultivation was rejected by the Congress of Deputies of Spain on Tuesday (February 28).

This followed the rejection of a similar initiative a year and a half earlier, put forward by left-leaning Más País.

Malta’s government in discussion with banks over cannabis clubs

Last week saw a number of positive developments come out of Malta, which officially opened the application process on Tuesday (February 28) for Cannabis Harm Reduction Associations to become licensed.

The country’s Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis (ARUC) is now accepting applications for these non-profit cannabis clubs to receive a licence to sell cannabis for recreational use, set to be the only way citizens can access cannabis legally other than growing it themselves.

In late January, Malta published its guidelines laying out the strict criteria these associations would have to meet in order to be accepted; however, the authority received pushback from cannabis groups over its fee structure, which was deemed too cumbersome to prevent people from turning to the illicit market.

Weeks later, head of ARUC Leonid McKay reassured industry stakeholders that they had taken these concerns on board and were making changes to reduce the financial burden on cannabis associations.

In further signs stakeholders’ concerns are being readily addressed, Malta’s Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri told parliament last week that discussions were underway with a ‘leading bank’ in an effort to ensure cannabis associations can access banking.

It came as concerns were raised both in parliament and in the local media, the latter by former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who suggested in an interview with Lovin Malta that local banks ‘would still not back anyone that touches the industry’.

Malta’s banking sector is understood to have become increasingly risk averse in recent years, refusing to accept gaming or cryptocurrency clients, and turning down medical cannabis companies.

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