I have helped work on cannabis reform efforts since the late 1990s when medical cannabis reform initiatives were being heavily pursued on the West Coast of the United States. Those efforts culminated in election victories in California in 1996, and Oregon and Washington in 1998. Since that time I have seen cannabis prohibitionists across the U.S. basically recycle their failed talking points and tactics from that era over and over again, and the same thing appears to be happing in Germany right now.
Unless you have been living under a rock then you know that Germany is trending towards launching an adult-use cannabis market, and also that once the launch occurs, Germany’s market is going to be considerably more massive than that of Uruguay and Canada combined. Unfortunately, there are futile attempts ramping up that are geared towards halting the process, with the latest one involving cannabis opponents hurling the idea that cannabis cannot be legalized in Germany ‘due to European treaties.’
Theory Versus Reality
Is Germany bound by European and international treaties, including ones that prohibit cannabis? Yes, obviously. Are Canada and Uruguay also bound by international treaties that prohibit adult-use cannabis commerce, including ones that Germany is also a part of? Also yes. With all of that being said, laws are only as good as the enforcement behind them, and just as the sky did not fall and the international community didn’t perform whatever the global community version of a SWAT raid is on Canada and Uruguay when they launched adult-use cannabis sales, the same will prove to be true in Germany when they inevitably launch adult-use sales within their own borders.
Leading up to legalization in Canada in 2018, Russia tried the ‘what about international treaties’ argument in an attempt to derail Canada’s efforts, to no avail. The same thing happened in Uruguay in 2013 when the United Nations tried the same tactic (and failed). It’s a similar concept that I personally witnessed in the United States when opponents tried and failed with their ‘but cannabis is federally illegal!’ arguments. Bad laws are meant to be broken, and cannabis prohibition is one of the worst public policies in human history.
Even within Europe there are examples of jurisdictions disregarding continental and international treaties when it comes to adult-use cannabis commerce. Late last year Malta passed an adult-use legalization measure, although they have yet to issue any licenses and access there is going to be different compared to what will eventually be implemented in Germany. Regardless, there has been no crackdown in Malta as a result of passing a measure that is in direct defiance of certain treaties. Adult-use cannabis pilot programs area already in place in Denmark, with Switzerland getting ready to launch its own pilot program, and eventually, the Netherlands. Again, international treaties have yet to derail any of those efforts in those European countries.
An Obvious Need For A New Approach
Earlier this month European anti-drug coordinators met in Prague, and Czech National Anti-drug Coordinator Jindřich Vobořil called for a new approach to cannabis policy and regulation in Europe at the continental level.
“We hope it will be a coordinated effort (to regulate the cannabis market). It is impossible not to talk about it on an EU-wide basis. Prohibition has not proved to be effective enough; we need to look for other models of control. A controlled market may be the only possible solution,” Vobořil said according to Euractiv.
Cannabis reform is on the move in Europe and in every other corner of the earth, and with it, the spread of the emerging cannabis industry. Lawmakers and regulators can try all of the delay tactics that they can think of, and it’s likely a safe bet that they certainly will, however, those efforts will always prove to be futile. At best, all it will do is delay the inevitable. The cannabis industry toothpaste is out of the tube and it is not going back in, and it’s beyond time that treaties reflect that undeniable fact and catch up with reality.