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Leaked Documents Suggest Significant Changes to Germany’s Cannabis Act

Germany’s traffic light coalition has reportedly agreed on a number of significant changes to the country’s landmark cannabis act.

According to unofficial reports from various local media outlets published this week, the proposals are now due to be enacted in two separate parts, with decriminalisation and home cultivation allowed from March/April 2024, and the rollout of cultivation associations following in July 2024.

Further changes have been made to a number of core elements of the bill, including the 200m consumption ban, permitted quantities of possession, and crucially the country’s medical cannabis domestic cultivation framework.

While news of the new ‘simplifications’ have been positively received, the government’s failure to amend legislation regarding hemp could mean a ‘death blow’ for consumable products.

What happened?

Earlier this month, Business of Cannabis reported that fractures within the coalition working group responsible for hammering out the details of the CanG Act, set to establish an adult-use cannabis framework in the European Union’s most populous country, had seen the final reading of the bill postponed.

Although the reading is now due to be held just a few weeks later than planned, parliamentary schedules mean that the implementation of the laws have now been pushed back by a number of months, after initially being promised for January 1, 2024.

Despite fears the various factions could require further time to find common ground, reports suggest that the SPD, Greens, FDP factions and Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) have agreed on a number of key changes to the bill, which is now due to be discussed in the Bundestag in ‘mid-December’.

While some of the new details were posted on social media by Bundestag members, a leaked BMG report provided detailed insight into the government’s plans.

Key Changes 

Major changes to domestic medical cannabis production

While much of the excitement is understandably centred around the changes relating to the upcoming adult-use elements of Germany’s cannabis plan, one of the key amendments relates to its booming medical cannabis industry.

The tender procedure for the cultivation of medical cannabis in Germany, which means domestic production is currently limited to just three companies, is set to be abolished, and the amount that can be grown will no longer be capped.

Demecan, one of the three companies with a licence to cultivate in Germany, said this new law ‘offers a huge advantage’.

Its Co-Founder & Managing Director, Dr. Constantin von der Groeben, told Business of Cannabis: “We are now free to cultivate as much cannabis as we want and can choose the strains we want to grow.

“Finally there will be a level playing field and German cultivators can compete properly with importers. Given our lower production costs and easy logistics, we will hopefully see a boom in medical cultivation in Germany.

“Demecan, Aurora and Tilray will probably benefit mostly from that given their first mover advantage with the existing cultivation in Germany.”

Kai-Friedrich Niermann, cannabis lawyer and industry expert, told Business of Cannabis this could have wide ranging implications for the market.

“We remember the complicated procedure from 2019, which even had to be repeated once and ended with a considerable restriction for the companies that were awarded the contract.

“Now, any company should be able to apply for the cultivation of medicinal cannabis, without restrictions on the quantity and type of products. The only requirement is that the production is carried out according to the known pharmaceutical principles (GACP, GMP, German monograph for cannabis flowers).

“The consequences of this development for domestic importers and their import quotas, for the number of new cultivation licences in Germany itself, and thus ultimately for the global world market, cannot be foreseen today.”

The elimination of the ‘overly bureaucratic procurement procedures’ was also ‘expressly welcomed’ by the German Cannabis Business Association (BvCW).

Hemp ‘intoxication clause’ not addressed

The group was less welcoming of the apparent refusal to address the controversial ‘intoxication clause’, which means the potential for criminal prosecution in relation to non-psychoactive industrial hemp continues.

Its Managing Director Jürgen Neumeyer called this ‘completely incomprehensible’, adding that it continues to ‘extremely hinder this sustainable industry’.

“Unfortunately, crop confiscations and prosecutions of farmers and processors can still occur. In addition, full spectrum extracts from industrial hemp, e.g.  for non-psychoactive cannabinoids and other valuable ingredients of the plant.”

Mr Niermann went even further, suggesting that this effectively meant ‘the German market for consumable industrial hemp products has thus been dealt the death blow!’.

“The legal situation for CBD products and industrial hemp should continue to apply in the new law, according to the will of the legislator. This means that misuse for intoxication purposes must continue to be ruled out for industrial hemp products.

“According to German law enforcement, including the Federal Court of Justice, this abuse is not ruled out for CBD flowers and hemp leaf tea. These products are at risk of being permanently excluded from the German market.”

He explained that CBD oils and hemp extracts are not covered by the definition of industrial hemp in the law, but are instead considered cannabis which is regulated under the new law, meaning production is prohibited.

Even if CBD oils are approved as a novel food by the EU Commission, the products would therefore not be marketable in Germany, threatening ‘a wave of lawsuits based on the principle of the free movement of goods in the EU’.

Consumption Zones

One of the most controversial elements of the previous draft was a requirement for consumption of adult-use cannabis to be banned within a 200m radius of schools, playgrounds and cannabis clubs.

This raised questions over how you would determine these exclusion zones, how these would be enforced, and how this would be at all practical in densely populated areas such as Berlin.

Consumption will now be prohibited ‘within sight’ of the entrance of these buildings, which the new law assumes is within 100m, seeing the distance halved.

It is understood that this will now also extend to medical cannabis patients, meaning they will also be banned from consuming cannabis within eyesight of minors, schools, playgrounds or cultivation associations.

The chairwoman of the Health Committee in the Bundestag, Kirsten Kappert-Gonther said that this change would reduce the burden on police, and provide clarity for users.

Possession limits

Major criticisms were also directed towards possession limits given that the new law would permit adults to grow up to three cannabis plants for personal consumption, which would produce significantly more cannabis than the 25g permitted.

In light of this, the permitted possession of home-grown cannabis ‘at one’s place of residence’ has doubled to 50g. Anything over this cap up to 60g will be considered an ‘administrative offence’, but anything over this will be a ‘criminal offence’.

This specifically relates to dried cannabis, as it aims to take into account the loss of weight of around 80% in the drying process. Thus, adults will be able to legally harvest around 300g at home.

The 25g limit still applies in public spaces, but a similar two-tiered system will be implemented, where anything up to 30g will be considered an administrative offence, with anything above being considered criminal, meaning there is ‘no risk of criminal liability’ for ‘slightly exceeding’ limits.

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