Legalisation of cannabis
In the coalition agreement1, the government of the traffic light coalition stipulated the legalisation of cannabis for the purpose of consumption. Another milestone on the way to this goal is the so-called key issues paper2, which the government presented in October3 2022. However, patience is still required and it is still unclear when cannabis legalisation will take place: Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has announced that the concrete implementation of cannabis legalisation in Germany will not take place until 2024 at the earliest. Until then, the first step is to obtain the OK at the European level: as soon as the European Commission has approved the key issues paper, a bill for cannabis legalisation in Germany is to be drafted. At the same time, the law on cannabis as medicine will be revised, which, for example, allows patients with chronic pain to be treated with cannabis.
The legalisation of cannabis: these are the facts
While previous conservative governments have completely ruled out the legalisation of cannabis in Germany, the government of the "Ampel" has put the project on its agenda on the basis of scientific surveys and wants to introduce a cannabis law. The focus is on youth and health protection. The prohibition policy could not prevent that the number of cannabis users has been increasing for years - especially among adolescents and young adults.4 This is especially critical because the human brain is still developing fundamentally until about the age of 25 and cannabis can cause irreversible changes here. Studies from other countries have shown that the use of cannabis among young people does not increase with legalisation for adults.5 In addition, with legalisation the entire production can be controlled by the state. Unlike on the black market, this can prevent the cannabis from being contaminated - for example with heavy metals that are harmful to health.
EU ruling: Is cannabis legalisation in Germany on the brink?
The biggest hurdle for cannabis legalisation in Germany is considered to be international treaties to which Germany is committed. At the EU level, the EU Drugs Strategy 2021-20256 is relevant here. Internationally, it is mainly the agreements made with the United Nations7 that are relevant. However, since the legalisation plans focus on youth and health protection, a conflict with these agreements could be negated. In view of the social pressure for legalisation, other EU countries also see a need for action and could welcome a blueprint from Germany. The Czech Republic, for example, also has concrete plans for the legalisation of cannabis. The current model from the Netherlands helps cannabis consumers out of illegality, but since coffee shop operators are not officially allowed to purchase cannabis, it does not curb organised crime. In Portugal, Spain and Belgium, the use of cannabis is already decriminalised under certain conditions.
Cannabis legalisation: pro / con arguments of the parties
The argument in favour of legalising cannabis for adults is that the prohibition policy of the past must be considered a failure. More and more people are consuming cannabis. On the black market, neither the quality of the cannabis sold can be monitored nor is the protection of minors guaranteed. Opponents of legalisation repeat mantra-like that cannabis is a gateway drug. Moreover, opponents fear that the use of cannabis will become the norm. Yet it is undisputed that cannabis is a drug. If you look at the pros and cons of cannabis legalisation, the only question is how to deal with it and what weighs more heavily in a risk assessment.
What does the legalisation of cannabis mean for the medical use?
The key issues paper on the legalisation of cannabis lists three areas of regulation: Cannabis as a stimulant, cannabis as medicine and cannabis for use as a crop. If, as planned, cannabis is removed from the catalogue of narcotics with legalisation, this would also remove some hurdles in the area of medicinal cannabis. In the future, it should be kept in mind that cannabis is mainly used by seriously ill patients who do not tolerate any contamination, but need a preparation of the highest quality. In addition, patients should not take their therapy with cannabis into their own hands, but should seek medical advice and thus receive a therapy tailored to their needs.
What will change for patients with the cannabis law?
Independent of legalisation and the accompanying cannabis law, legislators are working to revise the law on cannabis as medicine. With the introduction in 2017, it was also stipulated that the law would be reviewed again after five years. Not least for this reason, medical practice was also recorded in a companion survey. However, the survey has only limited informative value, for example because only cannabis prescriptions were included that were processed via the statutory health insurance funds and private prescriptions were left out. At the moment, the Joint Federal Committee, the highest self-governing body in the German health system, is dealing with the issue. Representatives from the medical profession and the health insurance companies are discussing the progress of the law on cannabis as medicine and will also take into account the opinions of other organisations.
How long will legalisation take?
It is not possible to say for sure when the legalisation of cannabis will become a reality in Germany. When presenting the key points paper on legalisation, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach envisaged a date of 2024 at the earliest. The legalisation law is very complex: not only do many ministries have to be involved, but harmonisation with the EU also takes time.
Where has cannabis been legalised?
Cannabis legalisation in Germany would be the first real legalisation in Europe. In the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal, Malta and Luxembourg, the use of cannabis has been decriminalised or permitted, but a real legalisation that includes the entire value chain of cannabis does not yet exist there either. In some US states, in Canada and Uruguay as well as in Thailand, cannabis is legal. Overall, the individual regulations in the countries differ considerably.
- 1KOALITIONSVERTRAG ZWISCHEN
SPD, BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN UND FDP
- 2Eckpunktepapier der Bundesregierung zur Einführung einer kontrollierten
Abgabe von Cannabis an Erwachsene zu Genusszwecken
- 3Youtube: Cannabis: Gesundheitsminister Lauterbach stellt Eckpunkte zur Cannabis-Abgabe zu Genusszwecken vor.
- 4Orth, B. & Merkel, C. (2022). Der Substanzkonsum Jugendlicher und junger Erwachsener in Deutschland. Ergebnisse des Alkoholsurveys 2021 zu Alkohol, Rauchen, Cannabis und Trends. BZgA-Forschungsbericht. Köln: Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung.
- 5Spanish Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Addictions. 2022 Technical Report on Cannabis. Consumption and consequences. Madrid: Ministry of Health. Government Delegation for the National Plan on Drugs, 2022. 126 p.
- 6Amtsblatt der Europäischen Union. EU-Drogenstrategie 2021-2025. C 102 I/01(2021)
- 7VN-Einheits-Übereinkommen (UN Single-Convention) von 1961 über Suchtstoffe in der durch das Protokoll von 1972 geänderten Fassung, Übereinkommen über psychotrope Stoffe (1971) und Übereinkommen der Vereinten Nationen gegen den unerlaubten Verkehr mit Suchtstoffen und psychotropen Stoffen (1988).
Disclaimer and legal information
This article is for informational purposes only and does not replace medical advice from a doctor. The content is not intended to motivate self-diagnosis or self-treatment, nor to tempt people to change their current medical treatment on their own. Canify Clinics does not make any recommendations or promote any diagnostic methods or treatments. If you wish to change your treatment, this should always be discussed with a doctor. Furthermore, Canify Clinics cannot guarantee the accuracy, timeliness and balance of the content. Therefore, neither the authors of the texts nor Canify Clinics accept any liability for damages resulting from the independent use of the information described here.