NEWS FROM AROUND THE GLOBE BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE ICBC

Author: Johnny Green

Johnny Green is a cannabis activist and prolific author from Oregon. Green was the High Times Freedom Fighter of the Month in May 2017 and appeared in the Netflix cannabis documentary 'Grass is Greener.'
malta

Malta To Start Accepting Cannabis Club Applications By February

Malta made continental history late in 2021 when lawmakers passed Europe’s first nationwide adult-use legalization measure. Prior to legalization passing in Malta, the only two other countries that had previously passed national legalization measures were Uruguay in 2013 and Canada in 2018. However, unlike its predecessors, Malta’s legalization model does not provide for sales through pharmacies, storefronts, and for-profit delivery services. Rather, Malta’s legalization model will be built on non-profit cannabis clubs, applications for which people can start submitting as early as February 2023.

Despite legalization’s passage in Malta late last year, there are still no legal means by which to purchase legal adult-use cannabis products. Whereas consumers have a buffet of options from which to make cannabis purchases in Canada, and to a lesser extent Uruguay (residents only), consumers in Malta have continued to wait until the regulatory framework is set up for non-profit cannabis clubs. Thankfully, there appears to be some progress on that front.

Accepting Applications In 2023

The non-profit cannabis club model is not a new concept. Barcelona, where we co-host the world’s largest cannabis super-conference every year along with Spannabis, is home to numerous private cannabis clubs where people can acquire cannabis as well as consume it in a social setting. Uruguay is also home to hundreds of private cannabis clubs, although Uruguay has implemented a regulated system for cannabis clubs compared to Spain where clubs still operate in somewhat of a grey area of the law.

In Malta there will only be two legal sources for adult-use cannabis. One of them is home cultivation. Adult households in Malta can cultivate up to four plants, per the law that was passed late last year. The other source for adult-use cannabis will, of course, be cannabis clubs. However, clubs cannot exist without first having a license, and generally speaking a license cannot be obtained until there is an application and approval process set up. That last part is reportedly finally happening in February 2023 in Malta.

“The Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis will be in a position to start accepting applications for cannabis club licenses by next February, according to Parliamentary Secretary Rebecca Buttigieg.” stated Malta Today in its domestic coverage. Malta’s Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis will oversee the non-profit sector, including the cannabis club application process. Leonid McKay is currently the executive chair of the authority.

What About The European Union?

Currently, an adult-use legalization measure is looming in Germany, with the nation’s Health Minister Karl Lauterbach currently lobbying the European Union to gain approval prior to formally introducing the measure so that lawmakers in Germany can officially consider it. While some lawmakers in Germany have called for the measure to be introduced immediately, the Health Minister appears to still be seeking EU approval first, at least for the time being.

An obvious question that international cannabis observers are asking on social media and beyond is why is Malta legalizing without so much European Union involvement compared to Germany? It’s a straightforward question that yields some fairly complicated answers. The less complicated answer is that Malta’s legalization model is far more limited than what is being proposed in Germany. Lawmakers in Germany are proposing a nationwide adult-use market where legal purchases will be made at storefronts, similar to what is going on in Canada but on a much larger scale. Malta will have non-profit clubs where people can acquire cannabis, but only if they are members and membership will be limited in many ways I’d assume.

The more complex answer is that Germany’s Health Minister is likely pursuing a strategy that will save legal and political headaches down the road. If the European Union gives its blessing to Germany’s plan, then it largely thwarts potential legal challenges from other EU member nations and mitigates some of the probability of German legalization becoming a political punching bag for cannabis prohibitionists. EU approval would be a final answer in many ways, and while challenges would likely still be pursued, it would be nearly guaranteed that legalization would overcome any challenges if EU approval was granted prior to a legalization measure’s introduction. With that being said, the EU presumably realizes that the decision on Germany will set a precedent, and a big one at that, so it’s not a decision that will be made hastily. The longer it takes for the decision to be rendered, the louder the calls will become within Germany’s borders for lawmakers to hit the gas pedal. In the meantime, the framework for Malta’s limited legalization model will continue to develop.

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German Lawmakers

German Lawmakers Call For Cannabis Legalization Bill To Be Expedited

How long is a reasonable amount of time to wait to get permission from the European Union before introducing an adult-use cannabis legalization measure? That is the multi-billion dollar question facing Germany’s Health Minister who made a legalization presentation to Germany’s federal cabinet late last month. The presentation to the federal cabinet served as the first true status update of sorts regarding the national legalization effort in Germany. As it currently stands, it is expected that early next year a legalization bill will be formally introduced in Germany. However, prior to that happening Germany’s government will continue to seek approval from the European Union, a strategy that some German lawmakers are pushing back on via their calls to introduce a measure by the end of this calendar year.

After the results of the 2021 federal election in Germany were finalized the incoming governing coalition wasted no time in announcing its intent to pursue adult-use legalization. For folks that were in attendance during the 2021 International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) in Berlin, held mere weeks before the historic election in Germany, the incoming governing coalition’s announcement was not entirely surprising. At the 2021 ICBC in Berlin German lawmakers discussed their intent to legalize cannabis in detail if/when the election results were favorable. As we now know, the election results did indeed prove to be favorable for legalization.

‘Waiting Is Not An Option’

Late last week members from coalition government parties issued a demand that Health Minister Karl Lauterbach no longer wait for approval from the European Union, and instead formally introduce the adult-use legalization measure that he previously presented to the federal cabinet.

“Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach must now draw up a draft law for #Legalisierung from #Cannabis and present it promptly – waiting for #EU and remaining inactive is not an option! As the rapporteurs responsible, we are making that clear once again today.” stated Kirsten Kappert-Gonther (Greens) on Twitter (translated from German to English). Kirsten Kappert-Gonther was joined in her call for urgency by Kristine Lütke MdB (FDP).

“Minister of Health @Karl_Lauterbach must not remain idle until the #EU commission has given its feedback! He must submit a #Gesetzentwurf for #Cannabis legalization by the end of the year – so that the controlled release is implemented quickly and does not come until the end of 2023!” stated Kristine Lütke MdB on Twitter (translated from German to English).

Another member of the Bundestag , Carmen Wegge (SDP), also weighed in on calls to expedite the legalization measure’s introduction.

“We believe that waiting for the #EU is not an option. Lauterbach has a clear mandate to act – through the Koa contract and the decisions made by the cabinet #Eckpunkte . We expect him to fulfill this now, he set the schedule for this himself in the summer.” stated Carmen Wegge on Twitter (translated from German to English).

Why EU Approval Is Optimal

In the most perfect scenario, the European Union would sign off on Germany’s legalization plan. I will be the first to recognize that we do not live in a perfect world, that cannabis prohibition is one of the worst public policies in human history, and that legalization should occur as soon as possible. With that being said, if the European Union will grant Germany permission to proceed, it would save a lot of legal headache down the road, as previously described by Kai Friedrich Niermann. Kai and his law firm KFN+ advise major CBD and medical cannabis companies around the globe. Kai is also legal advisor to the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA), and a regular speaker at International Cannabis Business Conference events.

“I assume that preliminary talks have already been held with the European Commission, and that no fundamental reservations are to be expected in this respect. Particularly in view of the fact that a number of member states are also already making preparations for a reform of their national cannabis policies. Minister Lauterbach also assumes that if the EU Commission gives its approval in principle, lawsuits from other member states pursuing a more restrictive cannabis policy will have no chance of success.” Kai Friedrich Niermann previously conveyed to the International Cannabis Chronicle.

Cannabis opponents inside and outside of Germany are no doubt doing everything that they can right now to brainstorm ways to derail legalization. Just as German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach is in the process of lobbying the EU for a favorable outcome, Bavaria’s Health Minister is also lobbying the EU, but with the goal of achieving the opposite outcome. It’s a safe assumption that if a non-cannabis friendly EU member country can find any way to sue Germany to try to prevent legalization, it will do it. From that perspective, waiting for EU approval would be a great thing and save a lot of time and effort, and would minimize distractions. Of course, if the EU tries to slow the process down and drag it’s feet indefinitely, then at some point Germany will have to proceed. At what point that occurs, or if Germany is already at that point, is something that will continue to be hotly debated both inside and outside of Germany until there’s further movement.

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Increased Safe Access In Poland Is A Good Thing

Poland may not be the first country that you think of when the topic of medical cannabis comes up, however, the country is currently experiencing a medical cannabis revolution of sorts, thanks in large part to how access to medical cannabis is determined. In a concept that should not be seen in any way as being controversial, Poland allows its doctors to ultimately decide who should qualify for medical cannabis prescriptions.

In many other jurisdictions, doctors can only approve suffering patients if they have been diagnosed with a qualifying condition. In some areas, the list of qualifying conditions is fairly robust. Yet, in many other areas the list of qualifying conditions can be very limited. In both cases, there are always some amount of suffering patients that do not qualify for a medical cannabis program because their condition or conditions are not on the list, which is truly unfortunate. Thankfully, Poland does not limit its doctors when it comes to medical cannabis and allows them to prescribe medical cannabis to anyone that they think it will help.

The Spread Of Safe Access

Medical cannabis reform was implemented in Poland in 2017, and as of last year doctors in the country were averaging roughly 3,000 medical cannabis patient approvals per month. When a medical cannabis program goes from zero to 3,000 new patients a month that may sound like a lot to some people, however, when put into proper context the monthly figure in Poland is not nearly as staggering as some cannabis opponents and mainstream media outlets seem to portray it to be.

For context, it is estimated that there are nearly 200,000 medical cannabis patients in Germany as of 2022. Taking the reported Poland medical cannabis patient statistic at face value, at roughly 3,000 patients being signed up per month Poland should now be home to roughly 36,000 annual medical cannabis patients. If those numbers are correct, that means that Germany has over five times as many medical cannabis patients compared to Poland even though Germany’s population (roughly 83 million people) is nowhere near five times that of Poland (roughly 38 million people).

The fact of the matter is that increased access to medical cannabis is a great thing. Suffering patients should always have safe access to effective medicine, including cannabis, and that is true in Poland just as it is true everywhere else. Deep down cannabis opponents know that, which is why they never seem to offer up actual evidence of a negative impact on public health when a medical cannabis program is increasing in size, but rather, they simply point to the fact that the program is increasing in size and then try to argue that the increase alone should be cause for alarm.

Trust The Experts

Medical doctors are trained, certified, and licensed. They are quite literally experts when it comes to human biology and medicine. Politicians and members of the mainstream media, on the other hand, are not experts when it comes to human biology and medicine, unless of course they double as licensed doctors. With that in mind, deciding what forms and frequencies of medical treatments are the most effective for a given patient and situation is something that should be determined by a doctor and the patient. Anyone that says otherwise is pushing a political agenda.

When a doctor prescribes medicine to a patient, they are doing so knowing that they could be putting their entire careers on the line. All of the years that they have put into developing their practice, including numerous grueling years in medical school, could all go up in smoke if they make a wrong move. No doctor is going to flush their careers down the drain just to help someone get stoned. When a doctor prescribes medical cannabis, including in Poland, they are doing so because cannabis is a proven medicine – a medicine that tens of thousands of peer reviewed studies have found to be safe and effective.

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united states congress

U.S. Congress Passes Historic Cannabis Bill

In many ways the United States has historically served as ground zero for the war on cannabis. The U.S. is not the only country to prohibit cannabis at the national level, however, decades ago it largely led the charge in support of cannabis prohibition and wielded its international influence to make sure that prohibition became the law of the planet.

In recent decades the frost of cannabis prohibition in the U.S. has steadily started to thaw, particularly after Colorado and Washington State became the first in the nation to pass adult-use legalization measures in 2012 and subsequently launched adult-use sales in 2014.

Zoom forward to today and there are now 21 states that have passed adult-use legalization measures, in addition to Washington D.C. Gallup recently released its annual cannabis legalization poll results, and support remained at a record high of 68%. As I often point out, you will be hard pressed to find any other political issue in the U.S. right now that has that level of support.

Yet, despite that backdrop and growing momentum, cannabis reform within the United States Congress has lagged considerably. Various bills have come and gone over the years, with some seeing limited success in one chamber but not the other. That changed recently when both chambers of the U.S. Congress finally passed a stand-alone cannabis bill, with the bill currently awaiting the U.S. President’s signature.

The bill is called the “Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act” and it would boost cannabis research efforts in the U.S. The legislation, which was originally introduced in July with bipartisan support,  passed the House prior to successfully making its way through the Senate.

“After working on the issue of cannabis reform for decades, finally the dam is starting to break. The passage of my Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act in the House and Senate represents a historic breakthrough in addressing the federal government’s failed and misguided prohibition of cannabis.” stated Congressman Earl Blumenauer, who co-introduced the legislation in the House. Congressman Blumenauer has previously spoken at International Cannabis Business Conference events.

“As we have seen in state after state, the public is tired of waiting for the federal government to catch up. Nearly half of our nation’s population now live in states where adult-use of cannabis is legal. For far too long, Congress has stood in the way of science and progress, creating barriers for researchers attempting to study cannabis and its benefits. At a time when more than 155 million Americans reside where adult-use of cannabis is legal at the state or local level and there are four million registered medical marijuana users with many more likely to self-medicate, it is essential that we are able to fully study the impacts of cannabis use.” Congressman Blumenauer went on to say.

“The passage of this legislation coming just weeks after the change in President Biden’s posture towards cannabis is extraordinarily significant. We must capitalize on this momentum to move subsequent common-sense House-passed bills like the SAFE Banking Act, which finally allows state-legal dispensaries to access banking services and reduce their risk of violent robberies.” Congressman Blumenauer concluded.

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The EU Is Deciding On More Than Just German Legalization

When it comes to cannabis reform activity, Germany is undeniably on center stage with the international spotlight placed directly on it. Part of that is due to the fact that German lawmakers are actively pursuing adult-use cannabis legalization and the launch of a regulated industry, and part of that is also due to how high the stakes are. Lawmakers from Germany are currently making their opening arguments to continental leaders, both on the supportive side and on the opposition side of the issue. Depending on which side succeeds, it could yield huge ramifications for the rest of Europe.

It’s quite possible that if German legalization efforts receive the blessing of the European Union, that it will be seen as the European Union (EU) giving the green light to any other country that wants to follow in Germany’s footsteps. After all, if Germany is allowed to do it, then why can’t other countries do the exact same? From that perspective, the gravity of what the EU is deciding extends well beyond Germany’s borders.

Lobbying Efforts Underway

Last week lawmakers in Germany started their efforts to educate and lobby the European Union in an attempt to yield their desired outcome. On the ‘pro’ side is German Federal Minister of Health Prof. Dr. Karl Lauterbach. Prof. Lauterbach was in Brussels last week to negotiate with EU leadership. The crux of Minister Lauterbach’s position seems to be, “protection against drug crime, legal safe consumption only for adults.”

Bavaria’s Health Minister Klaus Holetschek was also in Brussels last week. His reported intent was to achieve the opposite result compared to what is being sought by Germany’s Federal Minister of Health. Klaus Holetschek is calling on the EU to refrain from granting permission to Germany’s national legalization effort.

“The federal government’s planned cannabis legalization is not only hazardous to health, but I am convinced it also violates European law,” said the CSU politician on Wednesday according to Bild, after his meeting with the responsible general director, Monique Pariat, in Brussels. It’s unclear at this time what impact, if any, the dueling meetings had on the EU decision making process.

Framing Matters

The words used to describe the motivation behind Germany’s legalization effort will likely play a very big role in whether or not the EU grants its blessing, which was touched on by German cannabis policy expert Kai Friedrich Niermann in a previous article that I posted regarding German legalization and the EU. Kai and his law firm KFN+ advise major CBD and medical cannabis companies around the globe. Kai is also legal advisor to the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA), and a regular speaker at International Cannabis Business Conference events.

“In order to comply with its obligations under international drug treaties and EU law, Germany has opted for an interpretative declaration to the monitoring bodies of the UN treaties, referring to its own constitutional principles, the case law of the Federal Constitutional Court and the interpretative declaration already issued on the 1988 treaty. According to the German government, the plan to legalize cannabis in Germany is in line with the purpose and legal requirements of the conventions, as the focus of the reform is the protection of health and young people, and not the promotion of cannabis consumption.” Kai Friedrich Niermann communicated a few weeks ago after Minister Lauterbach’s presentation to the federal cabinet in Germany.

“I assume that preliminary talks have already been held with the European Commission, and that no fundamental reservations are to be expected in this respect. Particularly in view of the fact that a number of member states are also already making preparations for a reform of their national cannabis policies. Minister Lauterbach also assumes that if the EU Commission gives its approval in principle, lawsuits from other member states pursuing a more restrictive cannabis policy will have no chance of success.” he concluded.

That last part of Kai’s statement, touching on potential lawsuits from prohibitionist EU member states, is likely to prove to be tremendously significant in the coming years. Several countries are likely to follow in Germany’s footsteps, including the Czech Republic where leaders are indicating that they will pursue legalization on the same timeline as Germany. It’s likely a safe bet that just as there will be countries trying to join Germany, there will also be countries trying to prevent the spread of legalization. With that in mind, what the EU is currently considering may be specific to Germany, however, the ramifications of the decision will spread throughout the continent, so the significance of the decision cannot be overstated.

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German Cannabis Legalization Would Obviously Benefit Public Safety Efforts

Late last week an article was published by Frankfurter Allgemeine in which the Vice President of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) seemed to imply that law enforcement in Germany did not believe that adult-use cannabis legalization would result in a reduction in ‘drug-related crime.’

“Only a competitive offer could lead to the black market being reduced.” BKA Vice President Martina Link was quoted as saying in the article (translated from German to English), seeming to suggest that claims about adult-use cannabis legalization’s ability to boost public safety will not materialize in Germany. The comments made by Vice President Link were coupled with statistics about seizures of other substances (cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines) as well as horror stories involving organized crime activity in other countries.

If you have advocated for cannabis reform for as long as I have, then you know that Vice President Link’s tactics are standard anti-cannabis propaganda. Law enforcement downplaying the benefits of legalization as they pertain to public safety is as predictable as law enforcement trying to spread isolated horror stories in an attempt to scare voters and lawmakers. It’s a tactic that has been used by cannabis opponents for decades. However, unfortunately for prohibitionists in Germany, there’s direct evidence to now point to in other jurisdictions that refute law enforcement’s claims.

Reductions In Crime

One thing that I hope is obvious to everyone, and directly contradicts law enforcement claims in Germany, is that when cannabis is legalized for adult-use and consumers are no longer treated like criminals, that in itself results in a reduction in crime rates. Cannabis consumers that would have otherwise been subjected to the criminal justice system are now allowed to proceed with their lives as normal. Using Canada as an example, in 2015 alone it’s estimated that roughly 49,000 cannabis charges were applied by law enforcement. Many, if not all, of those types of cases simply do not happen now, and that in itself is enough of a boost to the criminal justice system for law enforcement to get on board with legalization in Germany, as all of that frees up law enforcement to work on actual crime.

We now know from data out of another legal state in the U.S., Oregon (where I live), that clearance rates for violent crimes improved after adult-use legalization, presumably because law enforcement had more time to dedicate to fighting those types of crimes. Oregon voters approved a legalization measure in 2014.

“The finding largely aligns with the argument made by the proponents of marijuana legalization that legalization would improve police effectiveness in addressing serious crimes, and as a result would increase clearance rates and generate a crime deterrence effect.” the researchers concluded. The findings in that Oregon study are similar to determinations made in a separate study involving Washington State, which approved a legalization measure in 2012.

Yet another study found that lower crime rates likely go beyond the legal jurisdiction’s borders. A study conducted in 2020 found that, “the property crime rate and larceny rate experienced substantial decreases in the border counties in neighboring states relative to nonborder counties following the legalization in Colorado.” Colorado passed a legalization measure in 2012. Based on the available evidence, legalization is good for public safety efforts, which should seem logical to people examining the issue objectively.

Regulation Works

Coupled with some of the reefer madness talking points, Vice President Link also expressed a strong desire to combat organized crime, announcing that new positions would be created to address the issue. I would imagine that I am not the only person to see the irony in that stated position. It is no secret that when cannabis sales are prohibited, organized crime fills the void. It is also no secret, as is being demonstrated in real-time in the Western Hemisphere, that if regulated adult-use sales are permitted then some amount of consumers will make their purchases via regulated channels, and that, in turn, directly hurts organized crime’s bottom line.

If law enforcement officials in Germany truly believe that organized crime benefits from unregulated cannabis sales, which it sure seems that they do, then they should be leading the calls for regulated sales to launch. No, the unregulated cannabis market will never be eliminated, just as unregulated alcohol and tobacco sales are not eliminated in Germany. However, that is not to say that legalization should be scrapped as a result. Some amount of adult-use purchases being made in a regulated system will always be better than no amount of adult-use purchases being made in a regulated system.

Law enforcement in Germany, taking their concerns at face value, should be making the argument that German legalization needs to be constructed in such a manner that it keeps regulated prices as low as reasonably possible in order to compete with the unregulated market in a meaningful way. Instead, sadly, they seem to be making the claim that if 100% of the unregulated market can’t be eliminated, then legalization shouldn’t be pursued at all, which is not sensible.

Cannabis legalization is good for public safety for a multitude of reasons, and one of the primary beneficiaries of legalization is law enforcement. Cannabis prohibition is a failed public policy that uses up limited law enforcement resources – resources that would be better focused elsewhere. Any minute that law enforcement spends investigating a cannabis offense is a minute that could be used to investigate violent crime. Courts should be conducting hearings for actual crime, not cannabis activity. Adult-use legalization in Germany will make things easier on both of those fronts, and anyone that claims otherwise is likely benefitting financially from prohibition.

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Is Germany Planning To Restrict Medical Cannabis Insurance Reimbursements?

Germany is home to Europe’s largest medical cannabis market, which is not surprising given the size of Germany’s population and economy. Since 2017, doctors in Germany have been permitted to prescribe medical cannabis products to suffering patients, and the cost of those products is often reimbursed by insurance companies. Having medical cannabis covered by insurance is a concept that medical cannabis advocates push for all over the globe, with Germany being somewhat of a rare success story. Unfortunately, things may be changing in Germany on this front, at least for some patients.

The Gemeinsamer Bundesausschuss (G-BA), which belongs to the Bundesministerium der Gesundheit (Ministry of Health), is tasked with reevaluating the GKV (statutory health insurance) reimbursement for cannabis medications following the finalization of the 5-year observational analysis after the medical cannabis law was initially adopted in 2017. Conclusions will rely heavily on the results of the BfArM 5-year observation.

How Will Changes Affect Germany’s Medical Cannabis Program?

One of the more restrictive changes being proposed in Germany includes general practitioners no longer being permitted to prescribe cannabis to patients whose costs are expected to be reimbursed by GKV. Such prescriptions would be reserved for specialists with additional qualifications. The policies regarding use of cannabis as a last resort could also be overhauled.

Currently, German doctors can prescribe cannabis flower instead of cannabis extracts if they feel that it’s a more suitable form of treatment. However, ‘special justification’ would be required for a cannabis flower prescription if proposed changes are adopted. Many of the proposed changes would directly increase the burden of documentation for doctors, particularly during first 3 months of treatment. For instance, doctors would also need to explain in writing why THC-dominant strains are being prescribed versus CBD-dominant strain.

All of this increases pressure on doctors to prescribe extracts instead of flowers, regardless of what is best for the patient, in addition to driving up costs for insurance companies. The process of considering proposed changes is already underway and ends at the end of this month, with a final decision on the matter possibly being rendered by early next year.

Legalization Is A Factor

What is going on right now in Germany regarding medical cannabis policy is not occurring in a vacuum. Obviously, the medical cannabis policy discussion is running parallel to the ongoing adult-use legalization discussion that is also occurring in Germany. For insight regarding how one may affect the other, I reached out to Dr. med. Julian Wichmann, Geschäftsführer/CEO of Algea Care.

“Lacking scientific evidence on the efficacy of medical cannabis remains a big issue in Germany. This is now starting to negatively impact healthcare politics and therefore reimbursement. Academic institutions and companies need to work closer together to fill this gap.” Dr. med. Julian Wichmann stated.

Algea Care has established multiple research collaborations with German university hospitals, with the first positive results recently being presented on outcomes in treating neuropathic pain with cannabis flowers.

“Increasing healthcare cost pressure and already implemented insurance premium increases have insurers looking for opportunities to reduce expenses. In pharmacies, manual work associated with cannabis prescriptions remains high due to extensive documentation duties. The plans for removing medical cannabis from the narcotics law (BtmG) could therefore lead to substantial cost savings and make medical cannabis more affordable for insurances and patients.” Dr. med. Julian Wichmann concluded.

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United States 2022 Election A Mixed Bag For Cannabis Reform

November 8th was Election Day in the United States, and cannabis reform was on the ballot in several jurisdictions, both at the state level as well as at the local level. Voters in five states had the chance to vote on adult-use legalization measures – Maryland, Missouri, Arkansas, South Dakota, and North Dakota. Unfortunately, only two of the measures were approved.

The first state to have a victory announced was Maryland. The measure in Maryland was somewhat unique, in that it was essentially an up or down vote, and after having been approved, it now tasks lawmakers to come up with public policy that implements adult-use legalization.

“State lawmakers have had many years to prepare for this moment,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said in a press release that I received by email. “Statewide polling had consistently shown that a supermajority of Marylanders support legalizing cannabis, and the outcome of this referendum was never in doubt. Now it is incumbent upon lawmakers to move swiftly to adopt rules to oversee a regulated cannabis marketplace in accordance with voters’ demands.”

The other state that passed a legalization measure yesterday was Missouri. It took a bit longer for victory to be announced, as the results in Missouri were much closer compared to Maryland, however, the result of overall victory was still the same in the end. Missouri became the 21st state in the U.S. to pass an adult-use legalization measure.

“This is truly a historic occasion,” said Dan Viets, co-author of Amendment 3, Missouri NORML Coordinator and Chair of the Amendment 3 Advisory Board in a press release that was emailed to me. “This means that the great majority of the 20,000 people who have been arrested year after year in Missouri will no longer be subject to criminal prosecution for victimless marijuana law violations.”

The measure in Missouri permits adults to possess up to three ounces of cannabis and to cultivate up to six flowering plants, six immature plants, and six plants under 14 inches at home for their own personal use.

“Voters in both red and blue America agree that it’s time to enact sensible cannabis laws that replace prohibition with regulations that protect public health and safety while fostering a vibrant small business sector that can create jobs and new tax revenue for their communities,” said Aaron Smith, co-founder and chief executive officer of the National Cannabis Industry Association about the state victories in a press release that was emailed to me. “With nearly half of Americans now living in a state with legal cannabis, it’s long past time to harmonize federal law with the growing number of popular state cannabis programs across the country. The first step toward realizing that goal would be to enact the bi-partisan SAFE Banking Act.”

Unfortunately, voters in Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota all voted down the legalization measures in their respective states. In the case of South Dakota, the state’s voters previously approved a legalization measure, however, after various legal issues another legalization vote was held and voters apparently had a change of heart.

The State of Texas was a winner from a local perspective, with five jurisdictions (Denton, Killeen, San Marcos, Elgin, and Harker Heights) voting to reduce penalties for personal cannabis possession.

“Texans have shown that they want major cannabis law reforms in Texas via polling, legislative engagement, and now at the local ballot box! This will have a positive impact on the almost half a million people living in these cities. While these local advancements are important in mitigating harm on citizens and reprioritizing law enforcement time, they result in a patchwork of differing marijuana enforcement policies based on location. It is time for lawmakers to take steps to enact statewide reform when they convene in January 2023,” Texas NORML’s Executive Director Jax James said in a press release that was emailed to me.

The 2022 election marks the first time in U.S. history where less states approved legalization versus approving them when given the chance, which is a fact that cannabis opponents are touting to anyone that will listen. While technically the results in some states in the 2022 election were not as favorable as some had hoped, the election still had its cannabis victories and the emerging cannabis industry will continue to expand as a result. The states that failed to pass a legalization measure this time around will hopefully get on the right side of history they next time they have a chance to do so.

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Cannabis Bust In Spain Highlights Need For Legalizing Cannabis, Not Continued Prohibition

If you are like me, then you read headlines over the weekend regarding a large cannabis operation bust in Spain. The bust was touted in mainstream media coverage all over the globe as being ‘the largest in Spain’s history.’ According to media coverage, the bust involved roughly 32 tons of cannabis (roughly 64,000 pounds). Or as the BBC put it, “equivalent to more than five adult African elephants.”

To be fair, the bust did involve substantial quantities of cannabis, however, there’s a lot of context that was left out of mainstream media coverage. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but most of the mainstream media coverage that I read regarding the bust seemed to be straight out of a reefer madness communications guide, which is why I assume that cannabis prohibitionists around the world are pointing to coverage of the bust as some kind of ‘justification’ for continuing prohibition.

The fact of the matter is that this latest bust in Spain will do nothing to curtail the unregulated cannabis market in Spain or Europe in the grand scheme of things. Thirty two tons of cannabis may sound like a lot, but it is hardly enough to supply ‘all of Europe’ as some media coverage seems to imply. The total population of adults in Europe is measured in hundreds of millions, whereas the total reported amount of grams involved in this bust in Spain is measured in the tens of millions, meaning that if the cannabis involved in the bust was provided evenly to adults throughout Europe every adult would get a tiny fraction of one gram. From that perspective, the unregulated market share of this operation is being greatly overexaggerated.

Furthermore, the cannabis involved in this bust may not even all be usable cannabis. How much of the overall weight being reported involved cannabis stems and water leaves? All of the cannabis at the site of the bust may have been technically illegal, however, that is not the same as saying that all of the cannabis involved was truly going to make it to consumers. This bust was significant in size, however, when put into proper context, it’s likely not as big of a deal as some may think.

Cannabis prohibition does not work, which is why the void created by this bust will be quickly filled by other people. The only way to properly mitigate the unregulated market in Spain, Europe, and the rest of the world is to end cannabis prohibition and work to transition cannabis sales into a regulated market. Thankfully, we now know that the concept works being that it’s successfully occurring in more and more jurisdictions around the world, and on a much larger scale compared to what was involved in this latest bust in Spain.

Using the State of Oregon as an example (it is where I live), in just the month of October 2021 alone over 5.5 million pounds (or roughly 2,750 tons) of regulated cannabis was harvested according to the agency that regulates the industry here. That is one state, in one month, and for those that are unaware Oregon is one of the less-populated legal markets in the United States. All of that cannabis is in a regulated system that prevents diversion to the unregulated market, and speaking as a consumer here, I have had no need to search out unregulated sources for several years now because going the regulated route is so much better from a convenience and selection standpoint.

Make no mistake – the cannabis industry is going to exist in Spain and other countries in Europe whether cannabis is legal or not, it’s merely a matter of if that industry will be run by organized crime or government regulators. Lawmakers in Spain are currently making a conscience decision to let cannabis consumer and patient dollars go to organized crime instead of to regulated businesses and the funding of things that everyone in society benefits from, such as public works. Lawmakers in Spain are currently making a conscience decision to let organized crime decide the working conditions of cannabis industry employees instead of workplace safety regulators.

And just as that is true in Spain, it is also true wherever else cannabis prohibition still exists both within the European continent and everywhere else around the world. The bust in Spain is a reminder that cannabis prohibition does not work, and that there is a better way to handle cannabis policy. Spain’s cannabis is world-class, and it’s beyond overdue that the nation adopt a public policy and regulatory framework that embraces the nation’s favorite plant instead of criminalizing it.

Spain

cannabis flower

Canadian Study Arrives At Obvious Conclusion Regarding Cannabis Purchasing Decisions

I am one of those lucky people that lives in a legal cannabis jurisdiction, and in my opinion, I live in the best legal market for cannabis consumers on earth. The State of Oregon in the U.S., where I reside, passed an adult-use legalization measure in 2014, with regulated sales beginning in 2015. Since the start of regulated sales, Oregon’s unregulated market as it pertains to domestic consumers has progressively shrunk, so much so that it’s virtually non-existent these days. That has resulted in me often being asked by cannabis observers around the world how Oregon did it?

Oregon is obviously not the only place to allow regulated sales, and yet, most other legal markets struggle with competing with the unregulated market. To be sure, unregulated cannabis is still cultivated in Oregon, however, none of it stays within the state’s borders from what I can tell, which is not a coincidence in my opinion given that Oregon has the lowest prices for legal cannabis products in the nation. Presumably, unregulated Oregon cannabis goes to other jurisdictions that have yet to legalize sales, and in some cases, some of it likely even goes to other legal markets where the price of legal cannabis is exponentially greater.

Price Matters

I have read my fair share of theories and expert analysis pertaining to ‘what needs to be done to combat the unregulated cannabis market’ and while much of it provides some level of insight, at the end of the day it’s an extremely straightforward ‘riddle’ to solve. As with anything, price matters, which is what yet another recent study determined, this time out of Canada.

“Higher prices and inconvenience of legal sources were common barriers to purchasing legal cannabis,” researchers concluded. “Future research should examine how perceived barriers to legal purchasing change as legal markets mature.”

A previous study from 2018 determined that cannabis consumers are willing to pay a bit more for regulated cannabis from licensed outlets compared to the regulated market, however, there’s a limit to how much more they are willing to pay. Every dollar that gets added to the price of legal cannabis results in some percentage of customers choosing to go the unregulated route, and thus, lawmakers and industry regulators should strive to do what they can to keep prices low.

Reasonable Taxes And Regulations

When people think of the government’s involvement in the cannabis industry, they often seem to oversimply it. After all, there’s more to operating in the industry than just initial licenses and taxes. Every regulation that is added to the cannabis industry contributes to a higher final price at the point of purchase. Evolving packaging requirements, security requirements, and many other regulatory components make operating a cannabis business expensive.

Current tax provisions for cannabis businesses are such that those business have to pay considerably higher taxes compared to other legal businesses, and for those that have banking access issues, additional security expenses may also be involved, such as armored transport services. Then there’s also, of course, the taxes on purchases themselves, which also adds to the final price for legal cannabis. Collectively, all of the costs and taxes can add up.

Meanwhile, nearly all of those aspects of the legal cannabis industry that drive up prices for legal products do not exist in the unregulated market, and as such, prices for regulated products will never be equal to prices for unregulated products. The goal is to get legal prices as low as reasonably possible so that the other benefits of regulated cannabis (testing, convenience, wider selection, etc.) are worth the extra cost. If lawmakers tax legal cannabis to death and regulators fearfully implement regulations that are obviously overkill, the unregulated market will always thrive, and it doesn’t have to be that way.

Canada

prague czech republic czechia

Why Other European Countries Need To Be Like The Czech Republic

Ever since the dust settled on the 2021 federal election in Germany cannabis observers around the globe have kept a close eye on the cannabis policy discussions going on inside of Germany’s borders. The new governing coalition made it clear that they would work towards legalizing cannabis for adult-use in Germany, and that effort moved one step closer last month when Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) made a formal presentation to the federal cabinet. The German prohibition domino is the largest in Europe, and thankfully, it appears that the Czech Republic may be on the same timeline.

As we previously reported, leading up to to the formal presentation in Germany the national anti-drug coordinator for the Czech Republic, Jindřich Vobořil, held a press conference to announce that he would be pushing for his nation to legalize cannabis for adult use, including regulated sales. Jindřich Vobořil also indicated in a social media post that the Czech Republic will proceed alongside Germany and seek to follow a similar timeline.

Coordinated Effort

As many cannabis observers have speculated, myself included, legalization in Germany will open up the floodgates to similar reform measures being adopted across the continent, if not the globe. We are now seeing some proof of that via what is going on in the Czech Republic.

“Germany and the Czech Republic go to a regulated market at the same time.” Jindřich Vobořil stated on his Facebook page. The post was made the same day that Minister Lauterbach made his formal presentation in Germany.

“Today, Germany announced through the mouth of its Minister of Health that it is launching the legislative process. It won’t be quite the free market, as some would expect. For example, colleagues from Germany talk about the allowed amount, they do not have cannabis clubs that we are supposed to. I’m pretty sure I want to hold on to cannabis clubs until my last breath. I find this model very useful, at least for the first years.” Vobořil went on to state in his post.

“However, we are in live contact with our colleagues from Germany and have repeatedly confirmed that we want to coordinate ourselves, even practically by consulting each other on our proposals. I will also want their expert assessment of our proposals, which we will prepare in the above mentioned working expert group.” Vobořil also stated in his Facebook post.

A Growing Coalition

The push in the Czech Republic is significant beyond just the nation’s own borders, and beyond the borders of Germany as well. As we discussed in a prior article, Germany’s next step in the process is to try to gain approval from the European Union (EU) for its legalization plan, and that the approval would need to be granted prior to a measure being officially introduced. From that perspective, every EU nation that pursues legalization alongside Germany is significant, including the Czech Republic.

I am hopeful that with the winds of change picking up in the Czech Republic that it will encourage other European countries to get on the same path. It’s reportedly the goal for legalization measures to be introduced in both Germany and the Czech Republic in early 2023, and hopefully that will be followed by regulated sales being launched in both nations in 2024.

As I have repeatedly pointed out in my articles, there is an opportunity cost for every European nation that drags it feet on legalization, and that will become more apparent as the legalization process goes along. As Germany continues to inch towards launching the world’s largest regulated adult-use market, the publishing of industry projections will increase and the numbers are sure to be staggering.

It’s being reported that Germany will not be able to import cannabis for the adult-use market, and that creates opportunities in other countries to stand up their own regulated adult-use industries, which is something that the Czech Republic has apparently already picked up on. Hopefully they are not alone among European countries in recognizing that a sensible approach to cannabis policy is better than the failed prohibition status quo, and that Germany’s robust legalization model is a better fit for countries compared to Malta’s current limited legalization model.

czech republic, Czechia

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Where Does The German Cannabis Legalization Effort Go From Here?

As the month of October draws to a close it is safe to say that it was one of the most eventful months for cannabis policy in Germany’s history. Unless you have been living under a rock without WIFI, then you are obviously aware that Germany’s Health Minister Karl Lauterbach made a formal cannabis legalization presentation to the federal cabinet last week. The presentation came a week after points of a prior version of the legalization plan were leaked to the public, with the leaked version resulting in various levels of pushback from the public and some lawmakers.

Multiple components of the legalization plan were improved upon as October progressed, including the apparent scrapping of THC percentage limits for products sold to people 21 and older, as well as a 50% increase in home cultivation limits (from 2 plants to 3 plants). As we previously pointed out, the current legalization plan involves removing cannabis from Germany’s narcotics law entirely.

Minister Lauterbach’s presentation to the federal cabinet was truly historic and cause for celebration inside and outside of Germany. Now that the ‘excitement dust’ is settling a bit, many within the global cannabis community are wondering where things go from here?

What Happens Next?

One of the biggest takeaways from last week’s presentation comes at the macro level in the form of Germany’s government making it clear that cannabis legalization is inevitable. It’s not a matter of if, but when.

“The presentation of the key points paper by Health Minister Lauterbach was a historic date. The German government leaves no doubt that cannabis legalization is politically desired by it and will also be pushed through against all odds.” points out German cannabis policy expert Kai Friedrich Niermann.

Kai and his law firm KFN+ advise major CBD and medical cannabis companies around the globe. Kai is also legal advisor to the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA), and a regular speaker at International Cannabis Business Conference events.

It is expected that early next year legalization legislation will be formally introduced in Germany. However, prior to a legalization measure being formally submitted, the nation’s government will continue to seek approval from the European Union. With that in mind, the conversation regarding cannabis legalization in Germany will now shift focus beyond Germany’s borders towards the larger continental discussion.

Will The European Union Prevent German Legalization?

It is no secret that Germany is a party to various treaties, both at the continental and international level. As I have previously stated, I do not think that international treaties will be an issue, if for any reason because Uruguay and Canada have both passed legalization measures and the sky is still in place over both of those countries the last time I checked.

Just as pushback from the international community and international treaties did not derail legalization efforts in those two countries, the same will presumably prove to be true when Germany legalizes. The European Union is a somewhat different matter, although, the final result will likely prove to be the same in that the German legalization effort will ultimately prevail.

“In order to comply with its obligations under international drug treaties and EU law, Germany has opted for an interpretative declaration to the monitoring bodies of the UN treaties, referring to its own constitutional principles, the case law of the Federal Constitutional Court and the interpretative declaration already issued on the 1988 treaty. According to the German government, the plan to legalize cannabis in Germany is in line with the purpose and legal requirements of the conventions, as the focus of the reform is the protection of health and young people, and not the promotion of cannabis consumption.” stated Kai Friedrich Niermann.

“The EU Commission and the other EU member states are to be informed of this in a notification procedure. Minister Lauterbach assumes that the EU will comment on this approach in the short term, so that the legislative project can be introduced in the Bundestag as planned from January.” Kai went on to say.

“I assume that preliminary talks have already been held with the European Commission, and that no fundamental reservations are to be expected in this respect. Particularly in view of the fact that a number of member states are also already making preparations for a reform of their national cannabis policies. Minister Lauterbach also assumes that if the EU Commission gives its approval in principle, lawsuits from other member states pursuing a more restrictive cannabis policy will have no chance of success.” he concluded.

Germany

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