German Bundestag Pressures Health Department for Cannabis Reform

In a rapid turn of events, the German Bundestag’s budget committee has placed pressure on the German Minister of Health, Karl Lauterbach, to present a bill for recreational cannabis reform this year for passage by the end of 2022. 

If he fails, he will lose part of his ministerial budget.

The committee, now in negotiations over all parts of the government’s annual spend, decided to temporarily suspend public relations funds for the Department of Health if the recreational cannabis bill is not passed this year. Lauterbach had just announced his intention to introduce such a bill by summer rather than autumn. It is unclear which decision actually came first, but at this point, it is obvious that the Traffic Light Coalition has decided to prioritize a truly burning issue.

Regardless, this is a major move both nationally and globally when it comes to the legalization of cannabis. It is almost unprecedented as a pressure tactic in German politics (which are genteel by U.S. standards). Furthermore, despite all the bureaucratic delay on just about everything here, it is also very clear that when they want to, the German government can move quite quickly.

The American Congress (particularly the Senate side of the Hill) should take note.

It is not like holding major issues hostage over budget agreements is an unknown tactic in Washington. It’s just nobody has been desperate enough, or incentivized enough, to use it for cannabis reform before.

The Germans are Coming

The amount of excitement on the German side of the discussion is absolutely building, daily. Deals are being made, even in the preliminary handshake form and plans are going ahead for all kinds of projects.

The fact that recreational reform is now essentially on the legislative docket begins to also firm up realistic estimates of market start. It is unlikely that anyone will allow the market to begin before the last two quarters of 2023. More likely, market start will be scheduled for the first or second quarter of 2024. Decriminalization, however, may happen a bit faster than this.

There are, of course, many considerations to all of this—not the least of which is administration and paperwork creation (hopefully this time via efficient, non-crashing digitized processes) for getting a move on.

The fact that this is coming now is also very interesting, considering that digitalization of German healthcare is also one of the issues Lauterbach has also been tasked to advance. This alone is an onerous discussion for a system which still routinely utilizes fax machines. Using cannabis as a way to speed up the digitalization of the healthcare system that touches it is a smart move. Even smarter if, again as part of this package of reforms, it relieves a burden on insurance companies on the reimbursement front.

German healthcare is going through a massive budget crisis right now. Recreational cannabis reform would certainly begin to ease a bottleneck of issues. Starting with tax income. Of course, as many in the Bundestag know, the continued criminalization of people known as legitimate cannabis patients who the system cannot process and treat fast enough is also an increasingly lightning rod kind of issue. Waiting times for a new appointment for either a neurologist or orthopaedist are at minimum, three to five months, even in large cities like Frankfurt right now. Whether such doctors decide to prescribe cannabis, or the patient’s insurer will cover it, are two different questions.

Recreational cannabis reform will go a long way to relieving some of the pressure, bureaucratically, politically, and administratively. Not to mention financially.

The Significance

The fact that Germany seems to be fast-tracking cannabis reform, and further under such circumstances will hopefully be a wake-up call to the rest of the world. Starting of course, with the United States.

Beyond this the impact will be felt almost instantly across Europe. Of course, there will be more conservative states which slow down reform. Newly re-elected Emmanuel Macron swore that he would not legalize recreational use while in office. Then again, the savvy French leader is a politician who recognizes which way the wind is blowing. And on this one, it has a nice, European-wide unifying effect.

Portugal, Luxembourg, and potentially Spain may also move quickly now to start to create export crops and products for a very lucrative and hungry market. Greece is having a field day.

What will be allowed to travel where is going to be an interesting discussion, as will the ability of what grade of cannabis will be allowed to cross borders. The first recreational market may in fact happen with German grown cannabis first. That would set up the current medical cultivation bid holders with a huge (and unfair) advantage. It would also potentially give Cansativa an unbelievably unfair edge (if not addressed pronto)—namely they currently hold the monopoly distribution position, granted by BfArM, for all German cannabis of medical grade at least, grown in Germany.

That is going to have to be addressed, pronto. Otherwise, there will be marches in the streets. Given the pressure and thus speed Lauterbach is now under (and given who has the lion’s share of access to his ears on this issue) it is very likely that a lot of issues (and people) will be thrown under the bus for the benefit of the rich, white, men’s club now attempting to exert their brand of control over the conversation even now.

The other discussion that is also coming fast is home grow. 

No matter the particulars (for example, keeping all foreign GACP high THC cannabis out of Germany for a certain period of time), or what is likely to unfold, reform is clearly coming, and fast, to Germany.

How it will be appropriated, tweaked, and amended is anyone’s guess. But the levers are now clearly moving, with a very incentivizing twist, to make Germany, the largest economy in Europe, into one of the most important cannabis markets in the world.

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More Than 15,000 Dispensary Applications Submitted in Connecticut

The state of Connecticut said last week that it received north of 15,600 applications from prospective recreational cannabis retailers, according to local news reports.

Central Maine reports that “State Department of Consumer Protection figures released Friday show that 8,357 applications were submitted before Wednesday’s deadline for the first six licenses that are reserved for social equity applicants—those located in mostly urban and low-income areas that were disproportionately impacted by the government’s war on drugs,” while the state also “received 7,245 license applications to the general lottery for adult-use cannabis retailers.”

The publication said that the “state did not set a limit on how many applications one entity could submit, but under its rules will not give more than two licenses to any one applicant.” 

“The department also received 1,896 applications to become micro-cultivators of marijuana, which will allow a licensee to grow in spaces between 2,000 and 10,000 square feet (3,048 meters). Other licenses will be available to sell medical marijuana, operate delivery services, make cannabis infused food and beverages and other cannabis products, as well as package and transport products,” Central Maine reported.

Recreational cannabis use for adults aged 21 and older has been legal in Connecticut for nearly a year now, with Democratic Governor Ned Lamont signing legislation into law last June.

“It’s fitting that the bill legalizing the adult use of cannabis and addressing the injustices caused by the war of drugs received final passage today, on the 50-year anniversary of President Nixon declaring the war. The war on cannabis, which was at its core a war on people in Black and Brown communities, not only caused injustices and increased disparities in our state, it did little to protect public health and safety,” Lamont said in a statement at the time.

“That’s why I introduced a bill and worked hard with our partners in the legislature and other stakeholders to create a comprehensive framework for a securely regulated market that prioritizes public health, public safety, social justice, and equity. It will help eliminate the dangerous unregulated market and support a new, growing sector of our economy which will create jobs,” the governor continued. 

“By allowing adults to possess cannabis, regulating its sale and content, training police officers in the latest techniques of detecting and preventing impaired driving, and expunging the criminal records of people with certain cannabis crimes, we’re not only effectively modernizing our laws and addressing inequities, we’re keeping Connecticut economically competitive with our neighboring states,” Lamont added.

But while the law took effect last summer, regulated retail sales are not expected to begin in Connecticut until later this year. 

Central Maine reported that the “first lottery for the social equity slots is expected within the next week,” with the winners undergoing “an eligibility review before the general lottery is held.”

The state began accepting social equity applications in January. 

Connecticut is one of a handful of northeastern states to legalize recreational cannabis use in recent years. The proximity to other regulated cannabis markets has caught the attention of some lawmakers in Connecticut, with members of the state House last month approving a bill that would prohibit out-of-state cannabis advertisements within its own borders.

Lawmakers were motivated to act after a number of billboards for Massachusetts cannabis retailers began to appear on the border. 

“Look, I’m sick of seeing these billboards with cannabis leaves splayed all across them, within 1,500 yards across from a school or church or whatever. Can’t we do something more about that?” said Democratic state House Representative Mike D’Agostino, as quoted by the Associated Press.

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Is Recreational Cannabis Reform Coming to Ecuador?

About 500 people staged a peaceful march through Quito, the capital of Ecuador last week, demanding that authorities decriminalize cannabis for recreational purposes, and further to allow public consumption.

Many attendees at the march were smoking cannabis openly. This an act of courage no matter where you are on the planet, not to mention a dangerous proposition anywhere—even as a patient—as pro-legalization demonstrators in Melbourne found out recently. 

In Ecuador, possession of up to 10 grams has been decriminalized, although authorities can charge one with a crime if found with even 1 gram of cannabis. This is highly controversial because the local police do not carry scales. The decision to charge, in other words, is entirely up to the officer at the scene.

Beyond this, according to the 2008 Constitution of Ecuador, Article 364 states that drug consumption is not a crime—rather, a health concern. Further, medical cannabis was legalized here by the National Assembly of Ecuador in September 2019. In fact, federally regulated medical cannabis production just kicked off in March of this year.

There is a reason people are taking to the streets demanding further cannabis reform this spring—and it is not just limited to this Latin American country. Marches have been held all over the world (even after 420), demanding that cannabis be fully and finally normalized and legalized. In Germany, for example, much like Ecuador, medical use is “legal,” and the country is cultivating medical cannabis. However, just like in Ecuador, patients and recreational users can be charged with a crime at the whim of the police.

This is a situation that is intolerable everywhere simply because of the massive injustice it creates—not to mention the continual criminalization of large segments of the population for a “crime” that is rapidly disappearing.

Ecuador is a country of 16.8 million people, located on the northwest coast of South America and bordering both Columbia and Peru. Once upon a time, Ecuador put itself on the map exporting “Panama hats” to manual laborers working on the Panama Canal and other agricultural work.

More recently, the country is a major exporter of petroleum—and has an increasing profile as a tourist destination. This is in no small part due to its stunning geography. Located on the Ring of Fire—a horseshoe shaped seismically active belt of earthquake epicentres, the country has three distinct regions consisting of coastal, highland, and piedmont zones. It straddles the Andes Mountains and occupies part of the Amazon basin. Offshore, it also includes the Galapagos Islands.

Unlike other Central and South American countries, Ecuador has taken the step of implementing medical cultivation. Now its citizens demand the right to consume the drug for whatever reason.

That logic is pretty global right now. 

The question is, when will authorities catch up?

The Privatization of Medical Cures

Tragically, what the situation in Ecuador illustrates in spades is that the medicalization of the cannabis plant, although overdue, is creating two levels of “legalization.”

The first, usually described as “medical reform” places regulations on who may cultivate, distribute, sell, and ultimately consume the plant. It increasingly means, at least in north-south terms, that the production country can still prosecute its citizens for both medical and recreational use, while pricing it out of the reach of everyday people.

This is a problem even in developed economies. Indeed, it seems to be one of the issues that is finally driving the German government to begin focusing on recreational reform.

The bottom line is that when a country begins cultivation—even for medical purposes—but insists on criminalizing everyone without a license who may grow or use it, the days of criminalization are numbered.

And while the certification of both the medical and recreational industry is a long overdue development, there are plenty of casualties along the way, no matter where you are on the planet.

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Argentina Makes Medical Cannabis Reform a National Priority

It is not just German lawmakers who are suddenly deciding that cannabis reform should be top of the political agenda this year; in Argentina, an agreement between the ruling party and the opposition will now put at least medical cannabis reform on the docket.

The Chamber of Deputies (which has only met once so far this year) has now agreed to not only meet but to further discuss cannabis reform when they do. The bill on the table will include regulations to create a framework for the development of a medical cannabis and industrial hemp industry.

This is a development that has now been pending since July of last year when, after being proposed by the national government, it was subsequently blocked by the opposition over a lack of agreement on the particulars. 

This, of course, is far from an unusual situation—see the state of federal reform in the U.S. right now for exactly the same reason. 

The Post-COVID Political Cannabis Football

Argentina, in fact, is joining both the U.S. and Germany in prioritizing federal cannabis reform this year, no matter the delays and stutters along the way. Just this week, the German press began reporting that government leaders, including the Minister of Health, were changing their tune on the need to move forward on some kind of recreational cannabis reform by this summer.

Cannabis normalization has actually been cooking slowly in Argentina since 2009, when the Supreme Court decriminalized cannabis for personal use in private. In 2017, at approximately the same time Germany decided to mandate public health insurance coverage of medical cannabis, the Argentine Senate approved the medical use of cannabis oil. In 2020 home cultivation was also approved.

Countries are clearly watching each other right now on progressing the entire reform issue—no matter where they are in the process of cannabis acceptance. For this reason, the proximate announcements in national legislatures now coming from all over the world appear to be a global trend. Legalization, if not normalization, is also highly likely to show up in other countries now coming out of the pandemic where political leaders desperately need to find both development projects with credible prospects of creating jobs, tax revenue, and potentially also have positive environmental impact. 

Cannabis legalization is a popular reform everywhere. Supporting the same gives credibility to a political process that itself is challenged if not deadlocked in partisan fights in multiple countries. Consideration of this issue, as well as passage of legalization legislation, not only gives such leaders credibility but represents something that they might actually be able to accomplish.

The End of the Latin American Drug War

The recent indications by multiple countries in both Central and South America that they are going to cultivate the growth of this industry (or are considering it) is a sea change that cannot be underestimated. The South American hemisphere was the top target of the U.S. from the 1970s until well into this century for a hot war that was never labelled as such but took many casualties.

Indeed, Uruguay, the first country in the world to declare that it would allow recreational reform, was blackmailed by the U.S. banking system for years after 2013 to slow down its internal development of the industry.

These days, that conversation is clearly not taking place, although federal reform (of any sort, let alone of the recreational kind) again seems to be destined to stall in the U.S. Congress.

Argentina certainly seems to be positioning itself on this issue as developments occur in both the U.S. and Germany (for starters). That makes a great deal of sense. Both countries are ideal export markets for a product that Argentina is well developed to deliver as a high value export crop in both hemispheres.

The post Argentina Makes Medical Cannabis Reform a National Priority appeared first on High Times.

Argentina Makes Medical Cannabis Reform a National Priority

It is not just German lawmakers who are suddenly deciding that cannabis reform should be top of the political agenda this year; in Argentina, an agreement between the ruling party and the opposition will now put at least medical cannabis reform on the docket.

The Chamber of Deputies (which has only met once so far this year) has now agreed to not only meet but to further discuss cannabis reform when they do. The bill on the table will include regulations to create a framework for the development of a medical cannabis and industrial hemp industry.

This is a development that has now been pending since July of last year when, after being proposed by the national government, it was subsequently blocked by the opposition over a lack of agreement on the particulars. 

This, of course, is far from an unusual situation—see the state of federal reform in the U.S. right now for exactly the same reason. 

The Post-COVID Political Cannabis Football

Argentina, in fact, is joining both the U.S. and Germany in prioritizing federal cannabis reform this year, no matter the delays and stutters along the way. Just this week, the German press began reporting that government leaders, including the Minister of Health, were changing their tune on the need to move forward on some kind of recreational cannabis reform by this summer.

Cannabis normalization has actually been cooking slowly in Argentina since 2009, when the Supreme Court decriminalized cannabis for personal use in private. In 2017, at approximately the same time Germany decided to mandate public health insurance coverage of medical cannabis, the Argentine Senate approved the medical use of cannabis oil. In 2020 home cultivation was also approved.

Countries are clearly watching each other right now on progressing the entire reform issue—no matter where they are in the process of cannabis acceptance. For this reason, the proximate announcements in national legislatures now coming from all over the world appear to be a global trend. Legalization, if not normalization, is also highly likely to show up in other countries now coming out of the pandemic where political leaders desperately need to find both development projects with credible prospects of creating jobs, tax revenue, and potentially also have positive environmental impact. 

Cannabis legalization is a popular reform everywhere. Supporting the same gives credibility to a political process that itself is challenged if not deadlocked in partisan fights in multiple countries. Consideration of this issue, as well as passage of legalization legislation, not only gives such leaders credibility but represents something that they might actually be able to accomplish.

The End of the Latin American Drug War

The recent indications by multiple countries in both Central and South America that they are going to cultivate the growth of this industry (or are considering it) is a sea change that cannot be underestimated. The South American hemisphere was the top target of the U.S. from the 1970s until well into this century for a hot war that was never labelled as such but took many casualties.

Indeed, Uruguay, the first country in the world to declare that it would allow recreational reform, was blackmailed by the U.S. banking system for years after 2013 to slow down its internal development of the industry.

These days, that conversation is clearly not taking place, although federal reform (of any sort, let alone of the recreational kind) again seems to be destined to stall in the U.S. Congress.

Argentina certainly seems to be positioning itself on this issue as developments occur in both the U.S. and Germany (for starters). That makes a great deal of sense. Both countries are ideal export markets for a product that Argentina is well developed to deliver as a high value export crop in both hemispheres.

The post Argentina Makes Medical Cannabis Reform a National Priority appeared first on High Times.

Italian City of Bologna Supports Recreational Cannabis Reform

Four city counsellors in the Italian city of Bologna have come forward in support of recreational cannabis reform for their municipality.

In this central, northern city known for its historical infrastructure dating back to medieval times, the goal is to continue the debate about cannabis reform on a local level to keep political pressure alive—and to figure out basic logistics. In Bologna, the current suggestion is that initial recreational access happens through the city’s pharmacies (much like the Swiss model rolling out this summer just across the border).

The Current Legalization Status of Italy

The country is moving forward on reform in ways that are similar but not a carbon copy of any other European country at the moment.

“Medical cannabis” with high THC is produced at the Military Pharmaceutical Chemical plant (located in Florence) and also imported via strict pharmaceutically defined channels. 

Private vendors (Aurora) actually operate the domestic cannabis facilities, but it is a high-security environment.

Home grow is also not strictly legit, although case precedent has essentially decriminalized it for patients who can prove they are sick. That still does not protect them from police raids, but at least there is a growing awareness that this issue cannot be entirely removed from the room.

Beyond this, hemp and low THC, aka “cannabis light,” is also legal in the country (formally) putting Italy on par with the UK rather than, say, Germany in this regard right now although there is a growing CBD market in Germany. Vendors just have to prepare themselves for the ever-present threat of a criminal charge. There are currently 200 pending prosecutions against only CBD establishments. That phenomenon is not being seen in Italy where low THC products are available at specialized stores and via online sales.

There has been a petition drive to legalize recreational use that was snuffed out at the Constitutional court lately, but it is not likely that reform will go away now, anywhere, at a federal level in Europe.

In the meantime, cities like Bologna and before it, Milan (as of February) are trying to approach the issue on a more localized level. And as in this case, in a semi-coordinated effort unseen so far yet in any European country. Specifically, the Milanese attempt was referenced favorably in Bologna as ministers raised the topic.

It’s spreading.

Why the Italian Market is Important to European Reform

Just as in the American states, European countries are now trying to figure out how to venture into the shallow end of the cannabis recreational kiddie pool. Nobody wants to jump in at the deep end. This is also one of the reasons that the Swiss experiment is so important here, too. However limited, it shows that a country in Europe can have a national cannabis trial, and the proverbial sky will not fall in.

There are also multiple signs here that the hemp cultivation sector is moving ahead—including for phytoremediation purposes.

Beyond these developments, the country already represents a valuable CBD marketplace for cannabis imports. There are many Swiss vendors looking at the commercial opportunities in both France and Italy right now for this very reason.

Beyond this, no matter how much the police, government ministers and certainly the legitimate industry does not like this conversation, home grow cannot continue to be penalized with federal criminal charges—especially for people with severe illnesses.

This has been established in Italy via court precedent, unlike Germany, and beyond this, legislation allowing the same has either passed, will do so, or is generically the case in Malta, Portugal, and Holland.

On the medical side of the discussion, the only place where THC is allowed presently, Italy, like Germany, has tried to integrate the plant and its psychoactive cannabinoid into normalized medical channels. Thus, the military base requirement for the EU GMP flower grown domestically. 

The recent squashing of a petition to hold a national referendum here also puts Italy in interesting territory via its neighbors. In Germany, there is a professor who has called for a national referendum on the rec reform issue (knowing also that the German Basic Law itself would have to be changed first to allow such a petition at all). This is nothing more than a cynical move to slow the entire conversation down as long as possible. In Italy, the Constitutional Court has struck down the first petition allowing for such a mandate to occur, but it is not likely that this setback will deter the growing sector here, much less allow federal politicians to continue to kick the can down the road much longer in any tangible way.

This interesting city-by-city relay system amongst northern Italian cities is yet another sign that progress will not be halted here.

As they say in these parts, Rome after all, was not built in a day.

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Australia Poll Finds 50% in Favor of Recreational Pot Reform

Fifty years from now, the world will undoubtedly look back at the period of cannabis prohibition with the same quizzical perspective that we now look at alcohol prohibition in the 1930s. Actually, it may be even more nuanced than this. After all, alcohol is a dangerous substance, with high addiction potential. Cannabis is not that.

But perhaps the rear-view mirror of historical condemnation of this period of time is not half a century away, but far closer. In just 10 years, it is highly likely that the world will have decriminalized cannabis. In a single decade, after all, the industry has moved leaps and bounds since both Colorado and Washington State passed voter-driven referendums to begin a recreational market.

In Australia, as in Europe, the support for recreational reform is now at a tipping point. In an online survey, conducted by polling company Essential Research between March 30 and April 2 of this year, 50% of respondents replied that they were in favor of full reform. This is double the amount recorded in a 2013 poll conducted by the National Drug Strategy Household survey.

This sea-change represents a doubling of support for reform Down Under—and further in just six years.

Beyond this, 58% want to make medicinal cannabis more affordable by allowing patients to grow their own, and 62% support scrapping current drug driving laws. 

The huge switch in public opinion also stands in stark contrast to current government-backed drug policy which has seen cannabis-related arrests increase 23% over the same period of time.

This development, according to Unharm, the non-profit which commissioned the Australian survey, also shows clearly that politicians are out of step with the wishes of the community on this matter.

Of course, it is not just Australia where this is a common theme. 

The need for urgent federal, if not international, drug policy reform is global.

Australian Cannabis Reform

Australia has moved, more or less, in sync with other countries on the matter of at least medical cannabis reform on a federal level. As of October 2015, the national government announced that it would legalize commercial cultivation for medical and scientific purposes. Reform has moved slowly forward since then. 

According to current data, cannabis continues to be the world’s most widely used “illicit” drug, with an estimated 3.9% of the world’s population—about 192 million people—using the drug on a regular basis. In Australia, the figures are far higher than that. About 11% of the population used cannabis at least once a year as of 2020.

Why is Political Will Lagging Popular Support—Everywhere?

Australia is not the only place where popular support for legalization has reached (at least) the halfway mark. Earlier this month, another survey made international news—namely that over 50% of Europeans also supported recreational reform. In the US, two-thirds of Democrat-leaning voters and just under 50% of Republicans also support change, although this varies by state.

Why, then, has reform—even of the medical kind—stalled everywhere?

Excuses, Excuses

There have been unforgivable delays and punts at a federal level just about everywhere. This includes, over the last two years, the excuse that governments everywhere were consumed with the global pandemic, or more recently, the war in Ukraine.

Beyond this, there have been suggestions that the reason support is up in polls but not in the political class because younger people (under 40) support recreational reform, while older people, who vote more often, do not. This is also, according to an academic study in Europe, not correlated at all. Nor is there notably more use of cannabis by younger people.

What we are witnessing now, in the United States, in Europe, and, of course, in places like Australia, is an unwillingness to embrace popular opinion by national politicians, and worse, a willingness to spend tax money to support the Prohibition infrastructure—no matter who gets hurt in the process. 

When will the balance shift, finally, in places reform is lagging? 

Give it a decade. And in some places, less than this.

Sadly, the amount of suffering—of both patients and recreational users criminalized by outdated policies—may increase during this period of time. Tragically, given human behavior and history, it is also such outrageous injustices during a period of social unrest and upheaval that usually manage to tip the scales.

Cannabis reform is clearly going to be no different.

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European Cannabis Reform as of 4/20/2022

European 420 this year is an interesting time on the cannabis front. While there is much to celebrate because reform here is on the march, it is also clear that there is still a long road ahead, almost everywhere, before full and final cannabis reform is the law of any land, much less region. Even on the medical front, patients are still struggling to get access, even in Germany. In other places, the situation is much worse. However, there are some bright spots—and it is clear that legalization is now in process, no matter how slowly.

Here is a brief overview of where the most influential countries stand on the issue—and the challenges yet ahead.

Switzerland

The non-EU country in the middle of Europe is absolutely leading the pack on implementing a federal recreational cannabis trial. Recreational users will be allowed to purchase high THC cannabis at pharmacies. The first orders are now being dispatched to apothekes all over the country. While the trial will be conducted on a canton-by-canton basis (the Swiss equivalent of states), its impact will be felt across Europe. It is very likely that Germany will adopt a plan that is similar to the Swiss. There will also be some form of the “cannabis club” that will take root here. Definitely the leader of the European pack.

Germany

The country will certainly be in a position to drive recreational reform when the new government gets around to it (as it has promised to do). However, on the ground right now, as the Traffic Light Coalition downplays the urgency of at least formal decriminalization, things are still pretty dire. Over 200 businesses in the hemp business are facing criminal prosecution. There are also close to 200,000 criminal cases pending against individuals. There is a reason that the Hanf Parade in Berlin is being organized this year, not to mention similar protests across the country. Perhaps there will be something to celebrate on this front as of April next year. 

Holland

The country is now in the process of creating a national system for the cultivation and distribution of cannabis, although on the slow track (it has been repeatedly delayed and is expected to take effect in 2023). In the meantime, the mayor of Amsterdam is still pushing ahead with her unpopular plan to close down as many as two-thirds of the city’s coffeeshops and ban cannatourists from the remaining ones.

U.K.

The country has formalized its CBD market recently, and this is a big step in a world where people can still get busted for even CBD flower. However, medical reform is still a far-off dream, as is recreational reform. There is another national medical trial now in the offing for chronic pain, but again, this will be highly limited.

Luxembourg

Despite a pending promise to create a recreational market by the beginning of 2023, plans have largely stalled here, in part thanks to COVID as well as the continuing anti-cannabis voices at a regional level. This is not to say that some kind of cannabis market will not be in the offing next year, but don’t hold your breath that this is going to be particularly impactful on the overall debate. 

Portugal

Portugal currently is one of the largest feeder markets for German medical cannabis—either grown domestically or as a passthrough product. Beyond this, the country’s last government promised recreational cannabis reform, but such promises have been decidedly muted since the new government took power earlier this year.

Greece

The country’s political leaders are angling to obtain as much foreign investment as possible, and of course, the cannabis industry represents all sorts of possibilities. As of this month, the Greek government finally announced that Greek patients can obtain cannabis from local pharmacies and tourists will be allowed to purchase it from such establishments as long as they have a doctor’s prescription. The country is absolutely on track to create a strong medical cannabis tourist sector—especially as this represents another form of foreign income.

Malta

The country beat Luxembourg to the punch on announcing that it had indeed legalized the first recreational market in Europe. However, Malta is an island, far away from mainland Europe, and while this is a great first step, there are clearly other countries who will move the needle a bit more. Users are allowed to carry up to seven grams and store up to 50 grams at home. People can also grow at home and will eventually be able to organize nonprofits to distribute the plant via cannabis associations.

Spain

The country is in an interesting place right now. Cannabis clubs are more or less tolerated, but there still has been no federal reform. Things are clearly sticky here still on all fronts, however, as the local police have just proved. They moved in on a farmer drying over $100 million in hemp flowers bound for other European countries and destroyed the crop, citing Spanish law on the extraction of CBD. 

Italy

In Italy, the situation is in an interesting place. Small amounts of cannabis are essentially decriminalized. Recent court cases have established the legality of cultivating for personal use when patients are severely ill. Beyond this, cannabis for medical use is legal although patients are running into the same issues as Germans when it comes to insurance reimbursement, which is one of the reasons that there is still a large push for reform. The cultivation of hemp with under 0.2% THC is also legal. The legalization effort was set back recently, however, when the high court overturned the right of its citizens to hold a national referendum on full legalization.

Denmark

The country is currently in the middle of a four-year medical trial, begun in 2018 and ending this year. Cannabis exports are also beginning to show up in other European countries for medical use. There has been a discussion about allowing a recreational trial, but nothing is crystallized yet.

France

It is highly unlikely that the next four years will see any major movement on the recreational front legislatively, even if the current president, Emmanuel Macron wins a second term in office. The country is in the second year of a highly limited medical trial. The best that can happen here is that the medical program will be expanded. If Macron’s challenger, Marine Le Pen, wins the election, expect France to be on one of the slowest boats forward, as she has suggested reigniting the Drug War. That said, as Europe’s largest hemp producer and the place where the KanaVape case was launched and won (allowing cross border CBD sales), it could be that reform here comes on the CBD front first, and further, via legal challenge.

Et cetera

There are several other European countries who are advancing albeit slowly. Poland’s highest court just overruled the main public health agency, the Chief Sanitary Inspectorate, in allowing hemp flowers as food. The Czech Republic continues to power forward on both the CBD and medical cannabis front. North Macedonia, although not in the EU, continues to try to enter the European market, even exporting cannabis oil through other Eastern European countries, starting with Poland. 

Austria is also in an interesting place right now, although not much has moved in the last several years. Possession has been decriminalized and the sale of seeds and plants is legal. However, the country seems to be in a holding pattern before taking the next steps. It is highly likely however that it will follow Switzerland and Germany’s lead as it shares a trading alliance with them. 

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Virginia Governor Signs Legislation to Improve Medical Cannabis Access

The governor of Virginia on Monday signed legislation aimed at easing access to the Commonwealth’s medical cannabis program.

Glenn Youngkin, the first-term Republican who took office earlier this year, signed a pair of bills, each identical to one another, that remove a requirement for patients to register with the Virginia Board of Pharmacy after receiving a certification from a medical provider. 

JM Pedini, NORML’s Development Director and the Executive Director of Virginia NORML, said that the new law will bring relief to patients in Virginia who have been frustrated by the delays accompanied by the registration with the Board of Pharmacy.

“These legislative improvements will bring great relief to the thousands of Virginians waiting to access the medical cannabis program,” said Pedini. “We hear from dozens of Virginians each week who are struggling with the registration process and frustrated by the 60-day wait to receive their approval from the Board of Pharmacy.” 

The new law “maintains the requirement that patients obtain written certification from a health care provider for medical cannabis,” but the elimination of the step involving the Board of Pharmacy should improve efficiency and access for thousands of medical cannabis patients in Virginia. 

According to NORML, Virginia has “currently over 47,000 [medical cannabis program] registrants, with an estimated 8,000 applicants still awaiting approval.”

Additionally, the measure “amends the definition of ‘cannabis oil’ by removing the requirement that only oil from industrial hemp be used in the formulation of cannabis oil.”

The medical cannabis legislation was among 700 bills signed into law by Youngkin, his office said Monday, adding that the governor took action “on a total of 841 bills sent to his desk during the 2022 General Assembly session.”

“Today marks another important step in a journey for the people of Virginia, one which started even before our nation’s founding. Every year the duly elected representatives of the people assemble to pass new laws on behalf of their constituencies, and I am honored to sign these 700 bills into law this year,” Youngkin said in a statement on Monday, 

“These bills are all bipartisan, and we can all be proud that together we’ve taken steps to make life easier for Virginians, make our Commonwealth’s economy more competitive, support law enforcement, protect the most vulnerable among us, increase access to health care, and take necessary steps toward making Virginia’s schools the absolute best in the nation.”

Youngkin’s first year in office marks the start of a new era for cannabis policy in Virginia, which became the first state in the southern United States to legalize recreational pot use for adults last year. 

But legalization arrived under different political circumstances in Virginia, with the bill passed by a Democratic-controlled General Assembly and signed into law by a Democratic governor, Ralph Northam.

Now, Youngkin has succeeded Northam, who was term-limited, and Republicans have re-claimed control of one chamber of the General Assembly.

That shifted landscape has brought uncertainty to the new cannabis law, particularly as it pertains to commercialization.

Youngkin said prior to taking office that he “will not seek to overturn the law on personal possession,” but he wavered on the matter of retail cannabis sales.

“When it comes to commercialization, I think there is a lot of work to be done. I’m not against it, but there’s a lot of work to be done,” Youngkin said. “There are some nonstarters, including the forced unionization that’s in the current bill. There have been concerns expressed by law enforcement in how the gap in the laws can actually be enforced. Finally, there’s a real need to make sure that we aren’t promoting an anti-competitive industry. I do understand that there are preferences to make sure that all participants in the industry are qualified to do the industry well.”

Earlier this year, the Democratic-controlled state Senate passed a bill to have cannabis sales begin in September, but the measure went nowhere in the GOP-led House of Delegates. 

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Setbacks In Germany Due to Delays on Forward Reform

There was much excitement in Germany last September in the German cannabis industry, in particular, when the new “Traffic Light Coalition” announced that they would finally tackle the particulars of full recreational cannabis legalization.

As spring begins to think about arriving, however, excitement has begun to fade in Germany with the repeated statements from government officials of late that there were more pressing priorities (from COVID to presumably the Russian-Ukraine crisis). 

In the meantime, the significant problems on the ground for both the industry and patients continue.

This is why, according to Kai-Friedrich Niermann, an industry specialist lawyer now pursuing a legal case against the German government on behalf of his clients to clarify rules on the importing of hemp: “The case for full and final reform is made every day, right now. In the courts, at the regulatory agencies, in the marketplace. There are many issues that will only be addressed by normalization of this market.”

Industry Setbacks

No matter that Cansativa in Frankfurt, the firm that won the BfArM issued (monopoly) contract to distribute German grown medical cannabis is suddenly proclaiming their excitement about the advent of the recreational market (particularly after their recent cash injection from Snoop Dogg) the reality is that recreational pot is still a few miles away yet. Beyond this, the medical industry is suffering from several big issues, starting with the expense of cannabinoid treatments, not to mention the government and health insurers’ reluctance to pay for them. 

In a case decided in Karlsruhe on Monday that is no doubt going to generate challenges rather than set case law, the Social Court ruled, unconvincingly and actually just repeating the 2017 statute, that patients may only receive such medicines in exceptional cases and under strict conditions. This is also discounting the fact that presumably the justices know how much danger and risk still exists for doctors.

Ärzte, as they are called in Germany, face footing the bill for the drug they prescribe to their patients in a situation of non-coverage by the insurers and government agency behind them. One presumes that any doctor taking that risk would be well-versed in the “last option” discussion already.

The plaintiff filed suit against the Medizinische Dienst Krankensicherung or MDK (the state-by-state arm of the public/private coalition that ultimately decides on medical cannabis approvals) and the patient’s health insurance company after he was denied compensation for an oral cannabis spray. 

The doctor wrote that his 27-year-old patient suffered from chronic pain syndrome (the most common reason medical cannabis is prescribed and approved in Germany). He also wrote that the patient could not alleviate the pain in his back and legs with other treatments. This is supposedly the test that is used in such cases, at least according to the 2017 law.

However, the court ruled that other treatments should also be tried.

The response from the cannabis industry here has been swift. “There are several things that need a dire update,” said Lisa Haag. Haag is a Berlin-based consultant, patient advocate, and CEO of of MJUniverse GmbH, which organizes educational events around cannabis and helps pharmaceutical companies understand the plant better. 

“These are awfully high if not contradictory barriers,” said Haag. “Why can’t the other suggested treatments happen in combo with cannabis? Beyond this, the direction is contradictory. As suggested by the court, they make you stop cannabis treatment. This is ridiculous. The expensive bureaucratic processes are still prohibiting access.” 

Haag also noted that this is just one court ruling, and others have put emphasis on the therapy responsibility of the doctor. It is widely expected that the patient will appeal to the tongue-twisting Landessozialgericht in Baden-Wurttemberg.

In addition to this decision on the medical discussion, there has been another setback for the industry—this time on the industrial hemp side. A German energy company, Leag, just announced this week that it was putting its two year experiment with hemp cultivation on open cast mining areas on hold. Leag was conducting the cultivation experiment to determine if new lines of business could be derived from cultivation of the plant, including products that might be made of industrial hemp.

The company also stated that it would revisit its decision if there was a “changed framework conditions or new developments that make the new line of business attractive and economically profitable again.”

“It is precisely these kinds of problems we report to the government, as it needs to know about them and begin to prioritize the passing of the law,” said Kai-Friedrich Niermann. “I won’t have as much litigation work of this kind, but for that I will not be sorry.”

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