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  • Lauri Beekmann

The German Bundestag legalizes the possession and cultivation of cannabis for personal use

Stig Erik Sørheim is the head of the International Department of Actis – Norwegian Policy Network on Alcohol and Drugs and a board member of NordAN
Stig Erik Sørheim

04.03.2024 - On 23 February this year, the German Bundestag decided to legalize the use, possession and cultivation of cannabis for personal use. The decision was as expected, but did not come without a fight, writes Stig Erik Sørheim from Actis.

The three-party coalition in power in Germany promised in its government platform to legalize cannabis and establish a commercial cannabis market. It was clear early on that this would violate several international agreements, and after discussions internally in Germany and with EU partners, the government presented a scaled-down bill.

The new law allows the possession of up to 25 grams of cannabis and the cultivation of up to 3 cannabis plants at home. The law also allows for so-called cannabis clubs, where cannabis users jointly grow cannabis for distribution among the members.

Legalization of home cultivation is scheduled to come into force on 1 April. The introduction of cannabis clubs is planned for the summer, but it is possible that the schedule will be shifted because there are still some uncertainties.

The final decision came after hard negotiations within the government coalition, consisting of the Liberal Party, the Greens and the Social Democrats.

There is still considerable opposition to the proposal in many federal states. The federal states' body, the Bundesrat, will consider the bill, and it is possible that it will be sent for further mediation. However, the Federal Council cannot stop the law, only postpone it. The majority of the federal states are governed by the governing parties, so the outcome of the treatment also depends on party discipline.

Opinion polls indicate that the population is divided in their views on legalisation.

The proposal for legal possession, home cultivation and cannabis clubs is reminiscent of models of decriminalization that already exist in other countries. A common theoretical distinction between decriminalization and legalization is that decriminalization is about the user, while legalization is about the market and the supply side. However, the legalization decision removes the drug classification of cannabis.

This has consequences for so-called medical cannabis. Cannabis for medical use will become a regular prescription drug, and this will make it easier for doctors to prescribe it to patients who want it. Supporters of legalization hope that this will increase access to cannabis in the medical market. Industry advocates believe this could result in up to a 10-fold increase in the number of patients who are prescribed cannabis.

For the cannabis industry, this is an important victory. The export of cannabis for intoxicating purposes is in clear violation of the UN drug conventions. In the original legalization proposal from the German government, it was therefore assumed that all the cannabis to be sold in Germany had to be produced within the country's borders. North American cannabis companies, which were struggling with overproduction and failing profitability, were thus banned from the German market. However, the drug conventions allow the export of controlled substances for medical use, and with more liberal prescribing of cannabis, significant market opportunities are therefore opening up for these companies.


The stated goals of the legalization decision are to limit the black market, protect public health and protect youth. It is unclear how the adopted proposal will contribute to this. The new law will provide increased access to cannabis in Germany, without the authorities gaining greater control over the market. It is also unlikely that home cultivation and cannabis clubs will cover the demand, so the black market will have good growth conditions.

The German model has been presented as a "European non-commercial model" for cannabis legalization. Many still assume that the German scheme is a step on the way to a commercial market in the future.

The next step in the German government's plans is a pilot project with legal, commercial sales of cannabis in a number of German cities or regions. A similar pilot project is already underway in Switzerland. The German government has also allied itself with a bunch of other countries that want to reform the international framework for cannabis control.

However, the German government has a tight timetable if they are to implement their plans before the next election. The Christian Democratic Party CDU/CSU are strong opponents of legalization and have indicated that they will reverse the new law if they come to power after the election.

Stig Erik Sørheim is the head of the International Department of Actis – Norwegian Policy Network on Alcohol and Drugs and a board member of NordAN

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