German officials appear to have backed off a plan, originally announced last year, to stand up a widespread marijuana retail industry across the European nation. Regulators now plan lower-profile legalization driven primarily by nonprofits and cannabis consumers themselves, instead of private industry.
The new structure comes after German officials reportedly consulted with the European Union, the Associated Press reported, which German Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir said “sets us limits we must respect” on how far Germany can go in unleashing cannabis commerce.
“I will also say we are pushing,” Özdemir said.
German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach told reporters on Wednesday that the new plan is to structure a legal market by:
- Legalizing personal possession of up to 25 grams, which is just under one ounce.
- Allowing individuals to grow up to three cannabis plants per person.
- Letting consumers 18 and older join nonprofit “cannabis clubs” that could charge compensation for cultivating marijuana for their members.
- Capping those clubs at 500 members apiece.
Club members could buy up to 30 grams a month, the AP reported, or a maximum of 30 grams for those under 21. Members would also be banned from joining more than one club.
The new legalization plan also includes a five-year pilot program for “regulated commercial supply chains in select regions” in Germany, the AP reported. Those details are still to be determined, Lauterbach said.
The plan still needs approval from Germany’s parliament, but Alfredo Pascual, vice president of investment analysis as Seed Innovations, wrote on LinkedIn that the first part – legalizing personal possession and nonprofit clubs – “should be implemented quite soon and won’t need EU approval.”
The regional supply chain portion, Pascual reported, won’t happen until “after the summer pause” and will be done in collaboration with the EU government.
Lauterbach said he doesn’t want to emulate the approach taken by neighboring Holland, which has taken a hands-off approach to regulating cannabis businesses while allowing personal consumption.
The news was met with disappointment from members of the global cannabis industry, many of whom had been hotly anticipating the opening of the German market to international marijuana companies.
The German pivot “shows that cannabis is still stigmatized and the double standard that exists around the world, especially when compared to the legalization of alcohol,” said Bloomwell Group CEO Niklas Kouparanis in a statement.
Though Kouparanis praised the German government for moving to decriminalize cannabis, he said the new plan is an exercise in “half-measures” that will “promote the illicit market,” since a fully mature and regulated market is apparently now still years away.
“Through the Cannabis Social Clubs and Home Growing provisions envisioned in Pillar One of his cornerstone paper, (Lauterbach) actually won’t be pushing back on the illicit market, which is an issue that needs to be addressed on our road towards adult-use legalization,” Kouparanis said.
“Progress depends on the … pilot project,” he added. “We urge Karl Lauterbach to advocate for and move toward legislation that legalizes cannabis across the supply chain.”