After years of political and social debate, the time has now come: Cannabis decriminalization has picked up speed with the traffic light government. On 16.08.2023, the federal cabinet approved the first draft bill for a corresponding law (so-called “Cannabis Consumption Act” – CanG). It is to come into force on 01.01.2024.
The background to the innovation are numerous difficulties in dealing with cannabis in the judiciary, society and the healthcare system:
Developments in recent years prove that the previous legal prohibitions have not been able to limit cannabis consumption – rather, the opposite is the case. The cannabis products that are purchased on the black market also pose incalculable health risks for consumers due to their unknown THC content and the large number of extenders used.
In addition, the already overburdened judiciary is almost overwhelmed with the mass of cannabis-related crimes and can hardly punish the violations successfully. Especially when court dates are held for possession of the smallest amounts of cannabis, the question of appropriate proportionality arises.
The fact that this prosecution practice costs the state immense amounts of taxpayers’ money, which could undoubtedly be used in many other ways, is just another aspect of the problem complex.
The Federal Ministry of Health would like to contribute to improved health protection by monitoring and ensuring the quality of the narcotic through controlled handling of cannabis.
Furthermore, the illegal trade in cannabis products is to be curbed, the corresponding education and prevention strengthened, and the protection of children and young people implemented more effectively.
To this end, various information, counseling and prevention services are planned; participation in so-called early intervention programs is to be established for children and young people at risk.
In addition, the possession and consumption of cannabis remains prohibited for persons under the age of 18. The same applies to advertising or sponsorship as well as public consumption in certain specified locations.
But what does decriminalization actually entail?
The possession of 25 grams of cannabis is to become exempt from punishment for adult private individuals. In addition, individuals who have had criminal convictions in connection with cannabis in the past will be able to apply to have those convictions expunged from the Federal Central Register.
On the one hand, the bill provides for the possibility of collective self-cultivation and non-commercial distribution of cannabis in cultivation associations, so-called “cannabis clubs,” provided that they can present the required official permit and comply with legally defined protection, documentation, and reporting obligations.
According to the draft law, the activity of these cannabis clubs is to be regularly controlled by the authorities and may only include cannabis products in pure form (marijuana or hashish).
At the same time, private cultivation of cannabis products will also be allowed within certain limits and observance of protective measures.
However, with the passing of the Cannabis Consumption Act, legalization as a legal process is not yet complete.
The federal government plans to further expand the release of cannabis within the framework of another draft law. Thus, the production, distribution and dispensing of cannabis products is to be made possible in licensed and state-controlled specialized stores. This project is to be limited in time and region and subject to scientific monitoring.
According to the Federal Ministry of Health, a corresponding draft should be available before the end of the year. Presumably, the corresponding regulation will only become law in the course of next year.
Before the Cannabis Consumption Act can come into force, it must pass both the Bundestag and the Bundesrat. In view of the massive criticism from the political opposition, it is more than doubtful that the rest of the legislative process will run smoothly.
So it could well be that those who have been longing for cannabis legalization will have to be patient a little longer.