Pharmacy Vs Dispensary: The Shape Of German Rec Reform

By Marguerite Arnold

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What is the model for recreational distribution likely to be in Germany?

Last fall, the new Traffic Light Coalition promised to enact recreational cannabis reform in Germany. However, beyond the actual schedule of reform, which has now been informally delayed until at least next year and 2024, there are already debates and discussions about what that reform might look like. 

This starts with what kind of regulated outlet cannabis can be sold at.

There has been some discussion of following the Swiss model – namely to start by dispensation via pharmacies. This of course would make sense as pharmacies are already in the business of cannabis dispensation. Further, a working model right across the Swiss border could be applied directly to the industry.

This idea however so far has not been uniformly embraced as many in the industry see their futures as running cannabis “dispensaries” more akin to the US or Canadian model. This would require stores to be separately licensed. The process of setting up such a system would inevitably take much longer and be fraught with the same issues that have arisen in North America. Namely, how would such licenses be dispensed and who would be eligible to receive them.

A Dispensary Rush?

In the United States, the process of obtaining dispensaries in many states was introduced by lottery. This benefitted those with money and political connections and largely left out everyone else. 

Beyond this, there is also the issue of where such dispensaries or stores would be located, if states and municipalities refuse to allow the same, this could also lead to additional problems for the industry, akin to what has already occurred in every single legalizing jurisdiction in North America and Holland so far.

What Does the Industry Want?

The further problem the looming legal dispensation of cannabis will create splits in the industry itself. There is no consensus from the medical cannabis pharmacies about whether they want to sell adult-use cannabis. 

Beyond this, being Germany, the entire discussion of which regs will apply (and to whom) looms large. This is particularly true given the police habit, so far, of indiscriminately invading premises and penalizing both companies and individuals under the German Narcotics Act.

The bottom line, no matter when the legislation for adult use comes, is that there is going to be another big fight looming, this time within the industry, particularly for those who have also established “CBD stores.” Complicated of course, by continued police intransigence to cannabis reform itself.

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