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Tag: Germany

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Did Germany’s Government Create A Domestic Cannabis Monopoly?

Medical cannabis policy in Germany is somewhat unique, in that the law permits for insurance reimbursements for medical cannabis products purchased from pharmacies. Germany is not the only country to have such a system in place, with Colombia serving as another example. However, many medical cannabis programs around the globe do not have a government reimbursement program.

Reimbursing patients for medical cannabis products, which Germany has done since 2017, helps increase safe access for suffering patients by lowering the financial barrier to acquire medicine. It also doubles as a subsidy for the jurisdiction’s emerging medical cannabis industry in that it ensures that a steady customer base is always present.

A lot of focus is directed at Germany’s medical cannabis price points, import statistics, domestic cannabis production statistics, and overall market size, which is understandable. Yet, often lost in the shuffle is Germany’s current licensing model, which is fairly nuanced. Due to treaties and the German government’s current approach, one specific type of subcontract license could prove to be particularly significant in the coming years as Germany transitions towards adult-use legalization.

Subcontracting Domestic Cannabis Storage

When Germany’s legal medical cannabis program launched in 2017 the entire program was built on cannabis imports from companies based outside of Germany, such as in Canada. Various companies applied for initial import licenses, with another major evolution occurring in 2018 with the start of the tender for domestic production.

The tender for domestic cannabis production involved production capacity limits that were not that large in the grand scheme of things. That, combined with the high cost of producing cannabis in Germany versus in other nations, has created a situation in which much of the legal medical cannabis supply in Germany still largely involves imports. Domestic licenses are not as valuable as some may have originally assumed, with one very noteworthy exception.

Due to international treaty provisions, countries allowing medical cannabis production are obligated to create an agency to buy domestic harvests in order to remain in compliance. The agency can’t simply buy the harvests ‘on paper’ in a somewhat symbolic fashion – they must buy it and physically take ownership of it. The United States (at the state level) is out of compliance with this provision, and apparently receives regular warning notifications because of it, although nothing seems to come of the continued non-compliance in the U.S.

Germany’s government, which seemingly takes treaties related to cannabis much more seriously, did task an agency with overseeing the nation’s domestic medical cannabis production. However, rather than Germany’s government storing the harvests itself, it subcontracted to one company, Cansativa. Being that it’s currently the only awarded license of its type, Germany has created a domestic monopoly of sorts, with every gram of domestic cannabis produced going through Cansativa, for a fee. As Germany continues its push to launch an adult-use industry, the subcontract license could cause potential issues.

A Domestic Adult-Use Cannabis Industry

As the dust settled on the 2021 federal election in Germany, the incoming governing coalition wasted no time in making it clear that it intended to pursue the launch of an adult-use legalization market. A long awaited legalization plan was presented to the federal cabinet in October 2022, and since that time Germany’s Health Minister has tried to make the case at the European Union that the plan should be allowed to proceed with the EU’s blessing.

A major component of the legalization plan that Germany’s Health Minister is lobbying for is that an eventual German adult-use market would rely solely on domestic production due to treaties. Whereas some treaties provide for legal medical cannabis activity to some degree as previously touched on in this article, adult-use cannabis is different. By relying solely on domestically produced cannabis to supply its adult-use market Germany would, in theory, be in compliance with the international agreements that it signed on to.

That, of course, begs the question, ‘will Cansativa keep its monopoly status, with all adult-use cannabis harvests going through its hands?’ When Germany launches its adult-use market it will instantly become the largest national adult-use market on earth. How will the nation proceed when it comes to domestic adult-use cannabis storage? Will Germany issue more subcontractor licenses? Regardless of if that happens or not, one thing is for sure – Cansativa will retain its monopoly on the medical side for the first five years, and with many medical producers also likely to start producing cannabis for the adult-use market, Cansativa will be able to leverage their network considerably.

Avoiding Cannabis Industry Monopolies

It is worth mentioning that Cansativa also has an import license, and that there have been no reported issues related to its domestic license so far. With that being said, monopolies should always be avoided in the cannabis industry to help boost competition in an effort to keep costs down.

Every penny that gets added to the final price of a cannabis product makes unregulated options more appealing. Many consumers and patients are willing to pay a bit extra for legal cannabis due to convenience and other factors, however, there’s a limit. At some point if the price gets too high, they will look for other options. If Cansativa continues its monopoly post-legalization, and hypothetically decides to raise its fees, it would affect every legal adult-use gram in the entire country. No one company should ever have that level of potential influence over an entire country’s emerging industry.

This dynamic will be particularly applicable to adult-use cannabis if/when it launches in Germany, as there will be no government reimbursement program for recreational products. Germany’s government is hinging much of its argument in support of legalization on a legal market being able to supplant the unregulated market, boosting the consumption of safer products in the process. Obviously, that will only happen if legal prices are competitive, and any monopolies in Germany put the possibility of competitive pricing in jeopardy.

Germany

Germany Health Minister Karl Lauterbach

Report: German Health Minister Confirms Timetable For Cannabis Legalization

Over the weekend a potentially significant report surfaced regarding cannabis legalization in Germany. To quickly recap how we got to where we are now, Germany’s Health Minister Karl Lauterbach presented an adult-use legalization plan to the federal cabinet back in October. Since that time, Lauterbach has lobbied the European Union for its permission to proceed with formally introducing the plan for consideration by German lawmakers. According to the report, Lauterbach is ‘certain’ that the European Union will grant its approval and that a formal introduction of the legalization measure will occur ‘in the first quarter of this year.’ Minister Lauterbach added, according to the report, that he ‘has no reason to doubt this schedule.’

Given that the better part of January 2023 is already in the history books, that means that if Minster Lauterbach’s schedule indeed proves to be accurate then Germany’s lawmakers could be considering a national adult-use legalization measure by the end of March (or sooner). Looking at it from a perspective beyond Germany’s borders, if Lauterbach is going to proceed with a formal introduction of a legalization measure with the EU’s blessing, then that logically means that other nations will presumably be able to do the same. If so, we could see the opening of the European legalization floodgates with other nations copying Germany’s model.

What Will Be Legalized In Germany?

The plan that Minister Lauterbach presented to the federal cabinet in Germany back in October was not the first version of the plan. In the days leading up to the formal presentation a reported previous version was leaked, and due to various provisions contained in the leaked plan, public outcry was swift. The outcry was largely directed at the initial possession limit (20 grams), an age-tiered THC percentage cap (10-15% depending on age), and the initial cultivation limit (2 plants).

What was ultimately presented to the federal cabinet involved somewhat vague language, in that the possession limit was raised to ’20-30 grams’ and that there would be ‘further examination’ as to whether there would at least be THC percentage caps for consumers 18-20 years old. The home cultivation limit was raised in the federal cabinet presentation compared to the leaked version of the plan, from 2 plants up to 3 plants per adult household.

One of the most significant components of the plan presented to the federal cabinet was the intention to launch a legal national adult-use cannabis industry in Germany. Right now, the only country that permits sales of non-THC capped cannabis products nationwide to anyone of legal age, including nonresidents, is Canada. Uruguay allows sales to residents, and Malta is in the process of setting up regulated non-profit clubs. No other country permits legal sales of non-THC capped cannabis products nationwide, and given how much larger Germany’s population, economy, and level of tourism is compared to Canada’s, the launch of a regulated national adult-use market in Germany will be a very big deal.

Limitations Of Germany’s Model

Germany’s legalization model is not perfect for various reasons, not the least of which is that it is yet to be approved, codified, and implemented. After all, politics can be full of twists and turns, and until a legalization measure becomes the law of the land in Germany there’s always the possibility that provisions could be changed and/or that the process itself could stall. We have already witnessed Lauterbach’s legalization plan evolve, and technically he has yet to reveal what, if any, changes were made as part of gaining approval from the European Union.

Part of the report that surfaced over the weekend described Minister Lauterbach as planning to present a ‘very good solution’ for German lawmakers to consider. Obviously, that is not the same as saying outright that the European Union didn’t demand any changes to Germany’s previously presented approach. If the changes are seen as regressive to some lawmakers in Germany, it’s virtually guaranteed that there will be pushback.

One huge limitation that seems to already be agreed upon by Minister Lauterbach and the EU is that all cannabis for Germany’s eventual adult-use market has to be produced domestically in order for Germany to be in compliance with treaties. While we will all have to wait and see how it plays out, I am of the opinion that supply shortages are going to be common due to this limitation. I have no doubt that German cultivators will do their best to produce as much cannabis as legally possible, however, they won’t just be supplying Germany. People from all over the world are going to flock to Germany to partake in the new freedoms. How great the demand for legal cannabis will be in Germany once sales are permitted is tough to say, but I think it’s a safe bet that it’s going to be enormous, and that may create issues.

Germany

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Which Country Is More Likely To Legalize In 2023 – The U.S. Or Germany?

When it comes to the ongoing fight to end global cannabis prohibition, there’s a saying that I often use – the bigger the nation’s economy, the bigger the domino. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly believe that cannabis legalization in every country is significant, and that any such victory should be thoroughly celebrated. However, there’s clearly a difference from an overall momentum-building standpoint between nations in regards to cannabis politics, and that is largely based on economic clout in the international community. For evidence of that, consider how much of the international cannabis community’s focus is dedicated to monitoring what is going on in Germany and the United States.

The United States and Germany are two of the top four economies on earth, ranked first and fourth respectively. The other two countries that round out the top four are China (second), and Japan (third), and as anyone that monitors international cannabis politics will be quick to point out, China and Japan are trending in the wrong direction and will not be legalizing cannabis for adult-use anytime soon. Conversely, both the United States and Germany are trending in the right direction, with advocates in both nations pushing harder than ever to end cannabis prohibition at the federal level within their borders. Advocates around the world are watching closely to see if either domino falls in 2023 because, after all, either domino falling would dramatically boost the chances of legalization efforts happening elsewhere on the planet.

Will The United States Legalize In 2023?

The United States is a very unique place when it comes to cannabis policy. At the federal level cannabis is a Schedule I substance and is greatly restricted, although hemp is legal and limited cannabis research is also permitted. Meanwhile, cannabis is legal for adult-use in a growing number of states and is legal in medical form to some degree in nearly every state. It makes for an interesting situation from a political science standpoint in that every year cannabis reform seems to spread at the local level in the United States while legalization at the federal level remains elusive.

A new Congress was recently sworn in after a federal election in the U.S., and it’s virtually guaranteed that no major legislation will be able to pass through both chambers in the next two years due to each chamber being controlled by opposing political parties. Cannabis reform, unfortunately, is going to presumably take a back seat to 24 months of partisan food fighting in the U.S. Arguably the saddest irony from a political science standpoint is that federal cannabis legalization is extremely popular in the United States, with Gallup’s most recent annual legalization poll holding steady at a 68% approval level for legalization. You will be hard-pressed to find anything in U.S. politics right now that has that level of support among all voters.

Cannabis advocates in the U.S. have remained hopeful year after year that federal legalization would finally happen in some fashion just to have their hopes dashed, and I personally think that the odds for legalization were better in the last Congress than this new one. Divisiveness is at the top of the menu in Washington D.C. right now, and even limited cannabis reform measures are likely to languish in the 118th Congress, with full legalization almost certainly being completely out of reach for the time being.

Will Germany Legalize In 2023?

Legalization’s progress in Germany may not currently be as some want it to be, myself included, however, Germany has a far greater chance of passing a federal adult-use legalization measure in 2023 compared to the United States. Pro-cannabis lawmakers in Germany have gone as far as blocking some of the Health Ministry’s funding due to delays in the introduction of an adult-use legalization measure. Politics and federal funding work different in the U.S. compared to Germany, and yet even with that factored in, there’s no equivalent level of pressure being incorporated by lawmakers in the United States right now. Performative federal cannabis legalization rhetoric is abundant in the U.S. Congress’ hallways, but actual action is rare on both sides of the aisle.

Germany’s Health Minister is currently trying to make his case at the European Union for a legalization measure to be introduced. The Minister previously indicated that the European Union’s approval would be required prior to a formal introduction of a legalization measure in Germany. Every day that the European Union lobbying process drags on pro-cannabis lawmakers in Germany grow increasingly frustrated, and rightfully so.

At some point in 2023 a German legalization measure needs to be introduced, regardless of if it has the blessing of the European Union or not. If the European Union does grant its approval in the coming months, that would nearly guarantee legalization’s passage in Germany not too long after the granting of the approval. However, in a scenario in which the European Union does not grant its approval in the first half of 2023, the pressure to introduce a measure in the second half of 2023 will be enormous. After all, legalization was part of the German governing coalition’s agreement once the 2021 election results were finalized.

It’s likely a safe bet that Germany’s Health Minister will not receive the same level of grace in 2023 that he did last year, and as we have already seen, there will be budgetary ramifications for any perceived delays. If pressure proves to be enough to get a measure introduced early enough in 2023, and the measure is truly in line with the spirit of the coalition government’s previously agreed upon legalization goals, then legalization could certainly occur in Germany in 2023. If that happens, that will, in turn, boost legalization’s chances on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

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German Lawmakers Block Health Ministry Funding And Demand Legalization Measure

As 2022 draws to a close and cannabis observers start to look ahead to 2023, Germany will continue to be the focal point of most people’s attention. Germany’s Health Minister Karl Lauterbach is currently lobbying the European Union for its approval of the general legalization plan that he presented to the federal cabinet back in October.

Various theories are swirling as to why European Union sign off is being sought prior to the introduction of a measure in Germany, with the leading theory seeming to be that approval would mitigate challenges from EU member nations seeking to prevent the spread of legalization.

A group of lawmakers in Germany is growing impatient with the delays related to the introduction of legalization, demanding that a measure be introduced immediately. They even recently followed through with a threat to withhold some of the Health Ministry’s funding due to the delay. Per RND:

It was an unusual process: During the budget deliberations for 2022, the budget politicians of the traffic light coalition put Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) under heavy pressure: they decided to block an amount of one million euros for the ministry’s public relations work until Lauterbach presents a draft law for the legalization of cannabis agreed in the coalition agreement. The reason for this approach: the coalition partners had the impression that Lauterbach did not actually want the release and was therefore trying to delay the project.

Lauterbach actually thought he was on the right track, because at the end of October he presented very detailed key points for legalization. They stipulate that the acquisition and possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis should be exempt from punishment in the future. However, a concrete draft law is still missing.

There appears to be rumblings out of Germany that the components of the general legalization plan presented to the federal cabinet in October are not firm, and that it’s possible that some components could get watered down due to negative feedback from the EU during discussions.

Hopefully, a measure is officially introduced soon in Germany and the parameters are favorable, regardless of if there is EU sign off or not. It is unclear what will happen if/when EU approval is not granted.

Minister Lauterbach has previously indicated that he will not pursue legalization without prior EU approval, however, if it keeps resulting in lost funding perhaps it could change his tune. Meanwhile, we will all continue to wait and watch for any signs of movement.

Germany

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Bavaria’s Health Minister Increases Efforts To Try To Prevent German Legalization

Earlier this month we reported that Germany’s Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) was seeking an ‘expert opinion’ to help with his European Union legalization lobbying push. Minister Lauterbach mentioned as part of his formal presentation to the federal cabinet in Germany back in October that prior to formally introducing a legalization measure he would seek the European Union’s approval to proceed.

At first it seemed to be a bit unclear as to why exactly an expert opinion would be incorporated into the lobbying effort, however, this week Bavaria’s Health Minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU) announced that he too would be seeking an expert opinion as part of his opposition push, which doesn’t seem like a coincidence. Minister Holetschek has emerged as the leading domestic voice against the Traffic Light Coalition’s legalization plan.

In his latest attempt to try to derail the legalization effort Minister Holetschek will commission an expert opinion from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. Per Nordbayern:

Bavaria’s Health Minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU) wants to have the federal government’s plans for cannabis legalization examined with a legal opinion. “Despite major health risks and legal concerns, the traffic light coalition has so far stuck to its plans. That’s why I commissioned a legal opinion to clarify the international and European legal limits of cannabis legalization in Germany,” said Holetschek. His goal is to objectify the debate.

Bernhard Wegener, Chair of Public Law and European Law at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, has been commissioned to draft the report. The report should be available by the end of February 2023.

Minister Holetschek may be the leading voice against legalization, however, he is not the only one to speak out against current German reform efforts. North Rhine-Westphalian Minister of the Interior, Herbert Reul, has also spoken out against legalization in recent days.

In an interview this week with Frankfurter Allgemeine, Minister Reul described the Traffic Light Coalition’s adult-use legalization plan as being “insane” and stated in the interview, “I dread legalization.” Comments were translated from German to English.

What is not being talked about among cannabis opponents in Germany, at least not in good faith, is the harms of cannabis prohibition. Cannabis prohibition is exponentially more harmful than any ‘social costs’ related to legalization. Canada and Uruguay are proving that in real time, and soon Malta likely will as well.

Germany

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Head Of Frankfurt Drug Department Calls For German Legalization

All eyes remain on Germany where the adult-use legalization effort continues. For those that may not be up to speed, back in October the framework for a long-awaited legalization measure was presented by Germany’s Commissioner on Narcotic Drugs at the Federal Ministry of Health Burkhard Blienert to the nation’s federal cabinet.

Since the formal presentation, Commissioner Blienert has spent time lobbying and educating the European Union in an effort to gain the body’s approval for Germany to proceed with the legalization plan. Blienert previously announced that he will be seeking ‘an expert opinion’ to help with the EU approval push.

In the meantime, the legalization effort is yielding public comments on both sides of the issue, with a notable voice expressing full support for the legalization plan. Artur Schroers, head of the Frankfurt Drug Department, recently participated in a civic interview and made it clear how he feels about the federal legalization plan.

“We would welcome it if cannabis were given to adults for recreational purposes under state-controlled conditions, instead of users obtaining substances on the criminal black market from dealers. Users would be decriminalized, destigmatized and would not have to worry about contamination or the like with state-certified cannabis. A controlled delivery would enable quality control and transparency about the THC content for the first time.” Schroers stated in the interview (translated from German to English).

“The protection of young people and health could also be significantly improved with state awarding agencies or licensed specialist shops. With this in mind, we support plans for the controlled distribution of cannabis and are preparing to that we can professionally meet the expected demand with the associated need for advice and prevention offers for young people. When it finally starts also depends on whether and when the European Commission approves the planned law. Of course, there are voices who want to see a new wave of drugs in cannabis legalization. But if you look at Canada or the USA, you will see that legalization has not increased the number of young people using drugs.” Schroers also stated.

“What always bothers me about the debate is the legal gap in people’s minds when assessing the harmfulness of individual substances, which also applies to the distinction between supposedly hard and soft drugs. Far more people die every year from the consequences of alcohol consumption than from the consequences of many other addictive substances. But in our society it was the case for decades that tobacco and alcohol were seen as stimulants and everything else was “the devil’s stuff”. Whether legal or illegal – the risk assessment should be based less on legal assessments and more on the actual toxicological, social and individual psychosocial risk potential.” Schroers went on to say.

Artur Schroers makes a lot of good points, and given his profession and standing, hopefully lawmakers across Germany and the rest of the EU are listening.

Germany

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Germany’s Health Minister To Commission ‘An Expert Opinion’ To Help EU Legalization Push

What I would give to be a fly on the wall in the room where private cannabis policy discussions are being held between European Union (EU) leadership and Germany’s Health Minister Karl Lauterbach. Health Minister Lauterbach has actively lobbied the European Union for its general approval of a German adult-use legalization plan ever since he presented a legalization proposal to the German federal cabinet back in late October. Various information has surfaced regarding legalization discussions with the EU in recent weeks, with the latest revelation involving Minister Lauterbach reportedly seeking an ‘expert opinion’ to help with the legalization push.

Health Minister Lauterbach presented a plan over a month ago that involves legalizing the possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis in Germany, as well as legalizing the cultivation of up to three cannabis plants in adult households. The plan was an evolved version of a previously leaked plan, and more changes could occur between now and a formal introduction of an actual bill. Arguably the most consequential provision of the legalization plan that was presented in late October involves removing cannabis from Germany’s narcotics law. Minister Lauterbach has made it clear that he wants to obtain EU permission for the plan prior to it being formally introduced and considered by lawmakers.

What Will An ‘Expert Opinion’ Involve?

According to Zeit, Minister Lauterbach is bringing in an expert opinion to help make the case for legalization to the EU. “Confidential talks with the EU Commission show that “very good arguments” are needed to convince them of the path they have taken,” stated Minister Lauterbach according to reporting from Zeit. From what I can tell, no announcement has been made regarding who will be providing the expert opinion or what it will include.

“We need good arguments when it comes to cannabis: We commission an expert opinion, develop a draft law at the same time and have it examined by the EU. This should show how we ensure quality, limit consumption & protect children. I am convinced of it.” Minister Lauterbach stated earlier this week regarding the latest wrinkle in the ongoing German legalization saga.

Logically speaking, one of two things is going on right now. Either the EU truly wants to learn more about Germany’s legalization plan, at which point help with crafting additional “very good arguments” via an expert or experts would be helpful. Or, of course, the other possibility is that the EU is trying to drag its feet and slow down the process by seeking ‘more information’ knowing that any amount of information will not change the EU’s opinion. Being that the EU hasn’t weighed in either way for better or worse, all we can do is sit and wait, although I do think that it’s worth asking an obvious question – what arguments can be made to the EU that haven’t already been made regarding the harms of cannabis prohibition and the benefits of legalization and regulation?

Calls To Speed Up The Timeline

Coupled with Minister Lauterbach’s announcement that he is seeking assistance in crafting arguments for the EU was a reiteration that the formal introduction of a legalization measure will not happen by the end of the year. Rather, a formalized draft of the law should be ready for private circulation by the end of the first quarter of 2023, and ‘if things go well’ and the EU blesses the effort, the formalized measure will be introduced in the second half of 2023. That timeline is sure to disappoint many legalization supporters, including supporters that are members of the Bundestag.

“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.” previously 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 previously on Twitter (translated from German to English).

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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 since 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 its 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.

Germany

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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.

Germany

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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.

Germany

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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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