Germany Waters Down Cannabis Liberalization After EU Meeting

Germany‘s cannabis liberalization plans will not be as comprehensive as folks hoped. At least for now, Amsterdam-style coffee shops may be a pipe dream after talks with the EU. Instead, the Associated Press reports that the watered-down plan will use state-controlled non-profit social clubs. If you’re a German resident at least 18 years old, you can join one and purchase up to 25 grams per day (or up to 50 grams per month). However, if you’re in the 18-21 age bracket, that figure is limited to 30 grams for adults under age 21. 

Germany has allowed the sale of cannabis for medical patients since 2017. The cannabis liberalization plan is one of many social reform projects proposed by socially liberal German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s three-party governing coalition planned to instate when taking office in December 2021.

Additionally, these cannabis clubs have a set maximum of 500 members each. The clubs can grow their own cannabis for their members to enjoy. Individuals can also grow, but it is limited to three plants per person. You’re only allowed to join one club, and authorities can limit the number of clubs that exist. The clubs’ expenses will be covered by membership fees, on a sliding scale, depending on how much cannabis the members use.

German officials also plan to set up regional test projects to sell cannabis through “commercial supply chains,” Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said. The finished proposal is a watered-down one that was initially proposed in October, which would allow the sale of cannabis to adults all across the country at licensed ships.

German ministers say that the scaled-back plan for liberalization results from restrictions established by the EU. Not everyone is ready to embrace the brave new world of cannabis legalization. Just as it is across the pond in the U.S., Conservative politicians oppose cannabis liberalization, saying loosening restrictions is dangerous, the BBC reports. For example, the Bavarian Premier Markus Söder tweeted that legalizing drugs was “simply the wrong path to go down,” adding that “drug clubs” did not solve any problems but created new ones. As a result, in a relatable outcome, Germany had to compromise. 

While Germany’s new cannabis plan is not a pro-cannabis advocate’s ideal outcome, it’s still a big step in the right direction. Twenty-five grams is nearly an ounce of cannabis. The intention of liberalizing Germany’s cannabis laws is to try and stop the black market. However, the country would be advised to look at places such as California, where the illegal market continues to flourish due to government red tape and high entry barriers into the legal market. If any country or state truly wants to eliminate illicit weed, it would be best served to create a realistic plan that meets consumers’ desires. 

The scaled-back plan comes after meetings with the European Union’s (EU) executive commission. The Associated Press reports that Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir said EU law “sets us limits we must respect, but that I will also say we are pushing.” Özdemir also noted that the draft of the legislation will be finalized this month and that “consumption will become legal this year already.” The next step is to implement five-year tests of regulated commercial supply chains in select regions which remain to be chosen. 

The plans still need to obtain the approval of the German parliament’s lower house (officials said an endorsement is unnecessary from the upper house). That chamber represents Germany’s 16 state governments, including the country’s primary and more conservative center-right opposition bloc, which opposes liberalizing cannabis laws. However, the health minister argued that Germany’s existing policies have failed and added that their goal is to create safer products. “We are not creating a problem,” Lauterbach said. “We are trying to solve a problem.”

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Week in Review: Germany Likely to Legalization; Politics a Hot Topic at SXSW

Germany’s Health Minister Indicates That Legalization Will Proceed

The German health minister has indicated that adult-use legalization will move forward in the European country, reports Marijuana Moment. Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Tuesday that he has received “very good feedback” from the European Commission and expects his bill to be formally presented “in the next few weeks.” 

“We’ll soon present a proposal that works, that is, that conforms to European law,” Minister Lauterbach said. Throughout the lobbying process, the minister has indicated that his efforts aim to improve public health in Germany via regulating adult-use cannabis. In 2022, the Federal Cabinet of Germany adopted a preliminary outline for legalization legislation. Still, the government required EU approval to ensure that adopting the change wouldn’t violate their international duties.

Under the government’s soon-to-be-revised proposal, which is currently only a 12-page framework and not actual legislation, adults 18 and older would be permitted to purchase and possess up to 30 grams of cannabis from establishments with federal licenses, potentially including pharmacies. Moreover, they may raise up to three plants for their own use.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Andrew DeAngelo. Photo courtesy of SXSW

Legalization the Hot Topic at SXSW 2023

Global Cannabis Consultant and Strategic Advisor Andrew DeAngelo, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) gathered onstage to discuss federal cannabis legalization at this year’s SXSW conference in Austin. The panel, called “Which Political Party Will Legalize Weed?” gave the two representatives an opportunity for a lively discussion on the end of federal cannabis prohibition. Moderator DeAngelo pushed the politicians on the lack of progress in the Capitol, according to Green Market Report.

Blumenauer is said to be “more optimistic” than last year, referencing President Biden’s pardoning of cannabis prisoners and the fact that Biden is also keeping the possibility of descheduling on the table after initiating a review of cannabis classification. However, he was said to be more critical of Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) inability to get a voting measure passed by the House, quoted as saying their desire for perfect legislation is behind the continued stalling but believes the two had “learned their lesson” and are more open to compromise.

Mace was reportedly less optimistic, saying if any change is going to happen, it needs to be done before June, as after that, “it’ll be about the presidential election,” she said. The South Carolina Republican also noted that President Biden could use it to his advantage to boost his reelection hopes.

Photo couresy of Death Row Cannabis

Snoop Extends Death Row Cannabis Product Offering 

 Following the sold-out first product drop of its debut offerings LA Runtz, Trop Cherry, Strawberry Garry and SFV OG, Death Row Cannabis has launched two new additions, True OG and Strawberry Gelato (Apple Fritter x Lemon Cherry Gelato hybrid), on March 10. Plus, fans of LA Runtz can be reassured that the popular strain also be returning. Like the first fire drop, these new cultivars were carefully by Death Row Cannabis’ Head of Operations, AK, a longtime West Coast legacy cultivator. 

“We’re very excited to introduce California consumers to Death Row Cannabis’s newest heavy hitter, Strawberry Gelato,” Travis “Shaggy” Marshall, head of product, said. “It has a loud, unique strawberry nose that’s tart and sharp on the front but sweet and creamy on the back. To me, it’s what I’d imagine a strawberry shortcake-flavored milkshake would taste like. Not only is it uniquely delicious, but testing at over 35% it also packs a punch for heavier smokers like me.” 

Arkansas Police: Medical Marijuana Causes Other Crimes

No Increase in Traffic-Related Hospitalizations Following Cannabis Legalization

The introduction of adult-use marijuana sales in Canada isn’t linked to a rise in hospitalizations for traffic-related injuries, according to data published in the journal Addiction, reports NORML. Researchers compared the national rates of hospital admissions and emergency room visits in the years before and immediately after legalization. 

 “Overall, there’s no clear evidence that RCL [recreational cannabis laws] had any effect on rates of ED visits and hospitalizations for either motor vehicle or pedestrian/cyclist injury across Canada,” the authors concluded.

The results align with an earlier Canadian study from 2021, which “found no evidence that the implementation of the Cannabis Act was associated with significant changes in post-legalization patterns of all drivers’ traffic-injury ED visits or, more specifically, youth-driver traffic-injury ED presentations.”

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German Minister Expects to Introduce Updated Cannabis Legalization Proposal Soon

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbauch recently attended a meeting in Brussels, Belgium with the Council of Ministers for Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumers on March 14. While in attendance, he spoke about the progress of his cannabis proposal and an estimated timeline of its release.

According to Europa Press, his proposal “has obtained a very good response from the Commission,” Lauterbach said.

He also spoke with news outlet NTV, explaining that his proposal will be presented in the “next few weeks.”

“We will soon present a proposal that works, that is, that conforms to European law,” Lauterbach said.

According to Europa Press, Lauterbach stated that it’s the responsibility of the German governing coalition to “comply with European legislation while maintaining their own objectives” in order to “[reduce] crime and to make cannabis use as safe as possible.”

He also added that there have been some concerns about cannabis legalization. “We have to address several issues. One of them has been presented by the Netherlands, which […] proposes a centralized care and focuse[s] on the recommendations of the experts,” Lauterbach said.

While Lauterbach’s formal proposal has yet to be released, a separate cannabis proposal was also held in a meeting with the German Bundestag Health Committee on March 15. “MEPs [Member of European Parliament] propose allowing adults to purchase and possess up to 30 grams of cannabis or cannabis resin,” the meeting description states. “The cultivation of up to three female cannabis plants for personal or community use should also be permitted. Keeping a year’s harvest of up to three plants should also be allowed. The draft law provides for administrative offenses and fines if the maximum permissible amounts are exceeded.”

Originally, a rough draft of Lauterbach’s proposal was leaked in October 2022 by RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland. One week after the leak, Lauterbach gave his proposal to German Chancellor Olaf Sholz.

Under that proposal text, cannabis possession between 20 to 30 grams for adults 18 and older would not result in a punishment. Product THC limits would be capped at 15%, with a 10% limit in place for young adults between 18 and 21 years of age. Sales and distribution would only be permitted for licensed businesses (and importing would be prohibited). Finally, residents would be allowed to cultivate three cannabis plants for personal use.

At the time, Lauterbach described his plan as “the most liberal legalization of cannabis in Europe, which will result in the most regulated market in the EU.” He also shared that an updated version of the plan would be presented as early as the beginning of 2023. “A formal introduction of the legalization measure will occur in the first quarter of this year,” he estimated

Germany legalized medical cannabis in March 2017, but officials formally announced an interest in exploring recreational legalization in late 2021. Official interest began in June 2022 when it was announced that it would be holding five hearings to discuss the importance of public safety, youth prevention, supply chains, and more. “The hearings are intended to discuss which measures can be used to ensure the best protection for young people, health and consumers in the event of implementation,” said Federal Government Commissioner for Addiction and Drugs Burkhard Blienert. “Because one thing is clear: we want to protect children and young people in particular from possible risks.”

Officials from the delegation of the Health Committee of the Bundestag traveled to California in September 2022. They met with Oaksterdam University Chancellor Dale Sky Jones, CA NORML representatives, and many other advocates, and also toured cannabis dispensaries to assess the opportunities and risks of legalization. Finally, they explored Lowell Farms cultivation facility and discussed seed to sale, including energy and water conservation, as well as the inner workings of SC Labs in regards to lab testing and compliance.

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Italian Court Rules Hemp Flowers, Leaves are Not Narcotics

A ruling by an Italian court earlier this month represents a huge break for the country’s hemp and CBD industry. 

The decision made by the Lazio Regional Administrative Court on February 14 overturned what the panel deemed an “‘absurdly restrictive’ decree [that] meant hemp leaves and flowers were considered narcotics in the eyes of regulators.”

The upshot is that the decision “means that Italy’s national law now no longer contravenes the 2020 Kanavape ruling of the European Union’s Court of Justice (ECJ).”

In that ruling, the Court of Justice of the European Union “ruled that CBD is not a narcotic and that a member state cannot restrict the free movement of CBD products, and that CBD can be derived from the hemp flower.”

The decision by the Lazio administrative court earlier this month also means that Italy’s CBD and hemp industry, which led this court challenge, are now empowered to operate more freely, and without fear of regulatory meddling. 

BusinessCann has more background on the lawsuit that led to the February 14 ruling by the Lazio court:

“In May 2022, four grassroots cannabis industry associations – Canapa Sativa Italia, Sardinia Cannabis, Resilienza Italia Onlus and Federcanapa – filed an appeal against a Ministerial Decree issued in January 2022. The decree in question amended an earlier decree from 2018 regarding the cultivation, harvesting and processing of medicinal plants. Effectively, the 2022 amendment sought to place the cultivation, processing and marketing of ‘non-narcotic’ hemp flowers and leaves back under the umbrella of narcotics, meaning operators would be required to seek authorisation from the Ministry of Health, or face penalties.”

Recreational cannabis remains illegal in Italy, although it is decriminalized. 

An effort in Italy last year to legalize recreational pot was stymied on legal grounds, when the country’s Constitutional Court “rejected a request to hold a referendum on legalising the cultivation of cannabis, provoking the ire of promoters who called the decision a blow to democracy,” according to Reuters.

The proposed referendum “sought to legalise the growing of weed for personal use and ease sanctions on other cannabis-related crimes, with offenders no longer risking prison sentences for selling small amounts of the drug,” Reuters reported at the time, noting that the court’s president “said the referendum included other narcotics considered to be hard drugs, which could not be liberalised.”

Medical cannabis, however, is legal in Italy, and its production is the exclusive domain of the country’s military.

The Italian army has a directive to grow 700 kilograms, or a little more than 1,500 pounds, of medical marijuana this year as it acts as the chief overseer of the cultivation. 

Medical cannabis that is not grown domestically by the Italian army is typically imported from other European countries, such as the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark. 

The army’s ramp-up of cannabis production is designed to make Italy’s medical marijuana program more self-sufficient.

“The next step is self-sufficiency — that’s our ambition,” Nicola Latorre, who leads the Italian agency overseeing the cannabis operation, told DefenseNews last month.

But this month’s ruling by the Lazio Regional Administrative Court could also have implications on that arrangement.

Cannabis industry representatives told BusinessCann that the Italian Ministry of Health has taken a more positive position toward the importation of cannabis-based products, a shift that suggests “that the Italian army’s monopoly on cultivation of medical cannabis in Italy, which has consistently been unable to supply enough product to meet demand, could soon be broken.”

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Weed Legalization in Germany Hampered by EU Laws

Germany has slowed its plans to legalize cannabis this year, with some officials expressing concern that a hastily drafted reform measure will be rejected by European Union courts. Although the plan to legalize marijuana has not been scrapped, a government official said recently that lawmakers are proceeding with a “degree of caution about promises of a breakthrough” and have scaled back plans to achieve legalization by early next year.

In November 2021, the center-left Social Democrats Party (SPD) received the most votes in Germany’s most recent federal election and created a coalition with the environmentalist Green Party and the Free Democrats (FDP) to form a new government. Known as the traffic light coalition in reference to the parties’ colors, the new ruling majority replaced the Christian Democratic Union, which had led the government under Chancellor Angela Merkle for 16 years.

As negotiations to form the new government were underway, representatives of the coalition announced that cannabis would be legalized for adults and a regulatory framework for legal sales would be created. Spokespeople for the new ruling alliance announced that cannabis would be legalized for adults, including the launch of regulated recreational marijuana dispensaries.

“We’re introducing the controlled distribution of cannabis to adults for consumption in licensed stores,” an unidentified spokesperson for the coalition said. “This will control the quality, prevent the transfer of contaminated substances and guarantee the protection of minors. We will evaluate the law after four years for social impact.”

The goal of cannabis legalization in Germany has been restated by the Green Party and the liberal Free Democratic Party since the traffic light coalition took power, including Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann predicting in May that a reform bill could be passed by next spring and lead to “the first legal joint” being sold in Germany in 2023.

In early June, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach announced that the government would start the legal process for cannabis legalization soon. He told the German newspaper Handelsblatt he has changed his stance on legalization over the past two years, and now believes the negative impact of prohibition outweighs the risks of recreational cannabis reform.

“I’ve always been opposed to cannabis legalization, but I revised my position about a year ago,” Lauterbach said.

A series of five hearings to discuss different aspects of cannabis were scheduled by the German government. Commissioner for Addiction and Drug Issues Burkhard Blienert said that “the time has come” to move forward, according to a translation.

“We are starting the preparatory phase of legislation,” he added. “Being able to finally announce this is a special, gratifying moment for me personally. Like many others, I have been working for years to ensure that we in Germany finally stop criminalizing cannabis users and start a modern and health-oriented cannabis policy.”

Government Officials Scaling Back Legalization Hopes

But after expressing optimism that reform would come quickly, government officials have been walking back predictions that Germany will legalize cannabis by 2023. On Monday, a legal analysis by German parliament researchers was leaked to the news portal RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland, warning that the effort to legalize cannabis would conflict with European regulations in several ways.

Early in the ruling coalition’s discussions of legalization, officials identified the United Nations 1961 single convention on narcotic drugs as a potential obstacle to achieving the goal, although both Uruguay and Canada effectively ignored the international agreement when cannabis was legalized in those countries.

German officials now largely believe that the 1961 treaty is not the obstacle it once seemed and have turned their attention to European Union laws that might jeopardize legalization in Europe’s most populous country. Under a Council of the European Union framework decision from 2004, member states are required to ensure that sales of drugs including cannabis are “punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal penalties.”

Additionally, the 1985 Schengen Agreement, which led to the abolishment of border crossings throughout the European Union, requires member nations to combat the illegal export, sale and supply of “narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, including cannabis.” As the government considers the challenges to cannabis legalization under EU laws, officials are rethinking the pace of reform.

“There is a degree of caution about promises of a breakthrough before the end of the year,” said an official familiar with the matter. “The complexity of all is starting to sink in, and there’s a sharper awareness of the risks involved. We don’t want another autobahn toll debacle,” a reference to a plan to build a toll road that was abandoned when the European court of justice ruled it violated an anti-discrimination law because it would disproportionately affect foreign drivers.

The traffic light coalition remains on target to finish drafting a bill that would allow for the legal distribution of cannabis, according to government sources cited by The Guardian. But lawmakers are also watching to see what happens in neighboring Luxembourg, where officials unveiled a plan this summer that would legalize the recreational use of cannabis in private settings but maintain prohibitions on using cannabis in public.

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Summer 2022 European Cannabis Roundup

Looking back on the trajectory of reform in Europe from the vantage point of 2032, a decade from now, this year, and particularly the spring and summer of 2022, will almost certainly be recognized as the European-wide tipping point for cannabis.

This is largely being driven by current events in Germany. The government just wrapped up several weeks of hearings on how to implement recreational reform. A white paper containing the recommendations of the same will be released in the fall, with draft legislation expected to be published by the end of the year. Beyond that, the timing is understandably a bit hazy, but the bill is widely expected to pass in the early part of 2023, with a recreational market on track to begin by the first part of 2024.

However, Germany is not the only game in town, as much as its impact on the conversation across the E.U. is huge.

The Domino Countries

There are currently several E.U. countries on the verge of recreational reform that stand poised to follow Malta into recreational reform this year by legalizing home grow. These are:

Switzerland – The country is launching its recreational use city trials this year. While outside of the E.U., the country’s forward progress on recreational reform is one of the key markets to watch in Europe right now.

Portugal Now established as one of the most important medical cultivation countries in Europe, the country is on the verge of formal recreational reform—and will proceed with home grow as a first step to creating a fully integrated recreational market with international juice. Portugal also has the distinction of being the most liberal country on drug policies across the E.U.

Luxembourg – The country’s current government promised to implement recreational reform before the end of their first term (which ends next year). Medical reform was implemented during 2018. Currently, the first step into the adult use market will be home grow also, although given the size of the country, it most likely won’t be a large producer.

Austria – The country will certainly follow its DACH trading partners—Germany and Switzerland—across the recreational line in the near future. Medical reform has already been implemented here and the country as a strong hemp industry.

Medical Reform Is Still in Motion

Adult use reform of course is not the only discussion in the room. Medical reform has also been moving forward in important jurisdictions this year—leaving no major country within the region that does not recognize at least medical efficacy of the plant. Even Albania, in accession talks with the E.U., is moving ahead with medical use.

France – The country formally (and finally) moved forward on a pending medical trial earlier this year. The jury is still out on whether the country’s president Emmanuel Macron, will be pushed by his more liberal government to move forward on some kind of recreational discussion. As the cradle of hemp production in Europe, the country has also been the testing ground for changing CBD policy across the E.U.

Spain – The home of the cannabis club announced their recognition of medical efficacy this summer. This is significant for several reasons, including the fact that Spain is also apparently ramping up its medical cultivation while allowing the clubs to continue to operate.

As a result, Europe is very much having its “2012” moment. By 2024, it is almost certain at this point that there will be, beyond Holland, several European countries where recreational cannabis is legal.

The Global Impact of European Reform

While it is still hard to predict accurately, make no mistake about it: This change is seismic, worth a great deal of money, and will have huge repercussions.

It is unlikely that in the U.S., for example, serious arguments will hold much longer against finally legalizing cannabis on a federal level.

Beyond this, it is almost certain that multiple countries in Asia will follow both events in the E.U. as well as Thailand and probably Indonesia’s early lead. Even if this change is also “only” medical for now, as has been seen worldwide at this point, this is only the first step.

From this vantage point, it is also not hard to envisage a world where the plant is finally, formally recognized, and at an international level.

Does This Mean Smooth Sailing from Here?

Just because legalization is moving however, does not mean there will be no detours much less distractions. This starts with a domestic rollout of reform, which on the recreational front will almost certainly also include some states, cities, and towns also placing a ban on sales.

The discussion about tourism is also much in the balance as Holland continues to make noise about banning cannatourists from Amsterdam. However, it is hard to believe that this will last, even in Holland. Greece, for example, which is already inviting German pensioners to spend a warm winter away from higher gas prices and lower temperatures, will ignore this valuable segment of the market.

On the regulatory front, Novel Food looms as a large and unsolved problem—and not just for CBD but also the full plant discussion.

All of these issues will take time and money to resolve. However, the most important step has clearly been taken in Europe this summer—and that will reverberate in turn, as perhaps the last major push necessary for the final dominoes to begin falling. Regionally and, of course, globally.

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German Government to Hold Hearings on Recreational Cannabis Reform

There is certainly something to be said about German cannabis reform that the rest of the world—and in particular, the U.S.—can learn from. The issue may have dragged excruciatingly slowly forward since 2017, but now that they have decided to actually do it, the government is moving forward quite fast to implement a new policy.

Last week, the government announced that ten new federal positions would be funded to oversee the new market. Two will be at BfArM, the medicines and medical devices agency where the current Cannabis Agency is located, and eight more will be directly under the Ministry of Health. The distinction is one of bureaucratic semantics as BfArM is an independent agency under the rubric of the health ministry. Yet this is Germany, land of bureaucratic hair splitting.

Yesterday, the Health Ministry also announced that it would start the first of five hearings today with the process lasting for the duration of June. More than 200 people are expected to take part—drawn from medical, legal, and business verticals, along with government officials and “international experts.”

The Ministry was told in a typically German and blunt fashion by the Bundestag budget committee last month that it was tasked with introduction of a bill that would be passable by the end of the year—or they would lose a million euros allocated for their PR budget.

The Impact of German Recreational Reform in Europe

While nothing is ever definite except death and taxes, it is highly likely that German recreational reform will pass by the end of this year. When the actual market starts is another question. Like Canada, or on a state level, Colorado and Washington State, sales could be delayed until the start of 2024. 

There are also other critical elements of legalization to be decided, such as decriminalization. Sales will be a large topic and range from how brick and mortar dispensaries will be set up to the ever-thorny issue of online sales. Clearing both previous convictions as well as pending legal cases is also a priority. There are about 200 criminal cases pending against legitimate CBD businesses, and over 185,000 against individuals, mostly for non-violent and personal cultivation and possession.

Beyond domestic impact—which also includes the creation of a regulatory structure for commercial cultivation, processing, packaging, and distribution beyond sales—there is another issue now front and center in this discussion and impacts the conversation across Europe. Namely where the richest country in the E.U. will source its recreational product—particularly until domestic cultivation is harvested. No matter how much new cultivation is initiated by all three medical bid winners, they will not be able to produce enough to supply the domestic market (nor should they be allowed to try). This also seems to indicate that feeder markets, including those cultivators now sourcing medical grade flower from countries including Portugal and Greece, are primed to step into the breach.

This in turn is also likely to drive further reform in most, if not all, other E.U. countries—especially those now on the brink of reform anyway. Portugal and Luxembourg have already announced progress on recreational reform since Germany announced an expedited schedule this spring. They are unlikely to be the only countries in Europe who will act. This is a valuable export crop not only for developing world countries, but many in Europe as well. Spain is one of them.

What Will Be the International Impact?

Beyond the immediate states of Europe, the impact of Germany going full Monty recreational will be massive. Its population is twice the size of Canada.

Apart from the domestic market and the inevitable topic of exports, it is also inevitable that political reform here will drive the issue in other places—starting with the U.S. (at minimum). 

If the Germans can do it, and within five years of federal reform of the medical kind (which also has not happened yet in the U.S.), there is little to hold this conversation back anywhere else.

What this also may well presage is further talks at the UN level, where reform has been punted for several years now. Removing cannabis from a Schedule I drug is now closer than it has been since before international prohibition which began to be implemented globally after WWI.

Quite ironically, the country which lost both of the global conflicts of the last century may well go down in history as the revolutionary force on the winning as well as the right side of history when it comes to cannabis.

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What’s Up With Cannabis Legalization in Belgium?

As Belgian cannabis advocates pointed out in spades this year on 4/20, the country is hopelessly behind the times when it comes to reform. This is true not only compared to other countries across Europe, but also to its neighbors who exist in a tripartite political and economic union and alliance with each other within the E.U. These are the so-called Benelux countries. This inter-regional coalition, created in 1944, consists of Holland, Luxembourg, and Belgium. The cooperation between the three countries is in many ways similar to the DACH alliance which unites Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.

When it comes to cannabis, however, Belgium is lagging behind its closest neighbors and economic partners and further in a way not seen in the DACH coalition—where all three countries within the same have moved forward on reform—and Switzerland is not even in the E.U.

When it comes to the countries within the Benelux alliance, also Belgium lags dramatically behind both Holland, with its coffeeshops, pending national cultivation, and distribution system, as well as Luxembourg, now teetering on the edge of recreational reform, even if only home grow is a first step.

Belgium is the last country within the alliance where the plant remains fully illegal. That said, a person who grows a single plant in their own home, in principle, will not be prosecuted.

What is the deal?

The State of Cannabis Reform in Belgium

Cannabis offenses in Belgium are given a “low prosecution priority” as long as the perpetrator is over the age of 18, is in possession of less than 3 grams, and not considered a “public nuisance.” These are the broad guidelines followed by authorities since 2003.

CBD also falls into this legally vague space. While it is possible to buy CBD oil domestically, vendors must advise customers to search on the internet for advice on how to use it. Since 2020, CBD oil for external use can be sold in pharmacies. High THC products, like Sativex, have also been available since 2015.

As of 2018, Belgian scientists publicly concluded that the country’s cannabis policy has a harmful consequence on society. Advocates for legalization also point out that recreational reform would generate as much as 700 million euros annually (about the same in dollars right now) to the domestic economy.

Since 2006, cannabis social clubs have gained in popularity in the country. These are modelled on the Spanish clubs. Like Spain, they rely on loopholes in the law to operate. So far there have been two cases against the clubs, neither one of them leading to formal conviction.

The Belgian Labour Party—or PvdA—has a detailed plan on how to legalize the drug while also combatting abuse and addiction which includes regulation of the industry.

In April 2019, the country established a government agency for cannabis that currently holds the exclusive right to distribute medical cannabis although it is not yet active.

The Impact of Cannabis Reform Here on European Policy

Brussels, the capitol city of the country, is also the center of E.U. policy making. Given this, do not look to Belgium to make any forward-thinking moves on cannabis until sovereign reform is more established across the European Union.

That said, given the pace of what is happening this year within E.U. borders (see Germany and Luxembourg, not to mention Malta last year) as well as proximate to its borders in Switzerland, it is clear that while reform might be glacial here, the status quo will not last much longer. Even France has signed on to the idea of medical efficacy.

With multiple countries across the region, which also include both Portugal and Spain, as well as Greece and Italy now regulating at least the medical industry and, in some cases, actually progressing on the recreational side too, Belgium will follow. Even if change here trails the forerunners of progress across the continent.

However, in the meantime, there are plenty of people in this trilingual country who are eager for the government to, as the Flemish saying goes, Vooruit met de geit; colloquially it means “let’s get on with it,” even if the literal translation means “forward with the goat.”

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What Is Next for Malta, the First EU Country To Legalize Cannabis?

Three months after Malta became the first country in the EU to federally legalize recreational cannabis use and remove all penalties for possession, Medcann World Forum places the spotlight on Malta again, its medical cannabis legislation and business-friendly environment, and highlights why the country is quickly becoming the leader in the European medical cannabis field through Plant Medicine Week.

Taking place from April 5-8, 2022 the event will recognize and advance plant medicine’s potential to change society’s approach to mental and physical health.

Local businesses and governments are opening doors to international regulatory experts and global business leaders in medical cannabis and psychedelics.

The multi-faceted event will focus on six main pillars: medical, legislation, business, regulatory, education, and research.

The event will bring together some of the most distinguished industry experts and will be chaired by Materia’s Founder, Deepak Anand. Guest speakers will include:

Kurt Farrugia, CEO of Malta Enterprise who will be providing an introduction to Malta and its government.

Sita Schubert, Founder and General Secretary of EUMCA. Schubert will be explaining the progress made by EUMCA so far and the plans for the future.

Tristan Gervais, Head of Chrystal Capital Advisory. Tristan will be exploring the European and international cannabis markets.

Cannabis R&D Panel

This fascinating panel will be hosted by Dr. Orna Dreazen, Vice Chairman of the Israeli public drug company, Nextage Therapeutics. Dr. Dreazen is also the founder and CEO of Nextage’s parent company, Nextar Chempharma. Dr. Dreazen’s credentials include a Ph.D in Biochemistry gained from the Weizmann Institute of Science and postdoctoral studies at the University of California in Los Angeles. Dr. Dreazen is considered to be a leader in the field of biochemistry.

Tuesday, April 5

  • Malta – Why Malta? The incentives and schemes available to attract foreign investment to our island. This session is designed to educate attendees about this stunning country and everything that it has to offer.
  • European Legislation – What is cannabis and what are countries’ obligations to control it? What is the opposition to cannabis? The panel examines the links and disparities between the content of the laws and their guidelines on the one hand and the actual implementation of the laws on the other. Have changes in law affected cannabis use and how much public support for legal change exists?
  • Entry into Germany – Who’s who and what are the barriers to entry?
  • Investment and Raising Finance – What do investors look for when analyzing cannabis investment opportunities?

Wednesday, April 6

  • Regulatory – How are the current regulatory regimes for medical cannabis, capital raising, and investment options for enterprises and investors operating in this sector?
  • R&D – What innovative cannabinoid research projects across several species are generating the evidence needed to improve healthcare?
  • Medical – Evaluation and development of novel cannabinoid therapies and latest clinical outcomes-based research and the use of Real World Evidence (RWE) in cannabinoid drug development.
  • Analysis of Cannabis – Latest technological advances in Cannabis testing and analysis.
  • Education – How to remove the lack of education among healthcare professionals?

Through a mix of case-studies, panels, Q&A sessions, and exhibitions, attendees will gain a diverse and inspiring perspective of the latest advances from the medical cannabis and psychedelics industries. Expert guest speakers will be presenting throughout the day and will be exploring what can often be a complex and emotive topic.

The local authorities fully support this sector and would like to open up into more segments, such as R&D and make Malta a centre of excellence in this regard.

At this prestigious event, attendees will celebrate this historic moment for Malta and what it means for the country’s economy and growth. While Malta is the first EU country to legalize cannabis, it was preceded by a number of countries and cities including Amsterdam, Canada, and the USA (in some states).

The post What Is Next for Malta, the First EU Country To Legalize Cannabis? appeared first on High Times.

EU Cannabis Consumption Increased and Ecstasy Use Decreased in 2021

A new survey studying the consumption habits of participants in the European Union (EU) reveal that cannabis use has increased, and the use of ecstasy has decreased considerably.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) recently found that cannabis and ecstasy saw the strongest changes in consumption habits. The European Web Survey on Drugs was conducted online between March and April 2021 with the intention of illuminating patterns of drug use to consider in future regulation. Throughout 21 EU countries and nine non-EU countries, the survey recorded answers from those who were 18 or older and had used drugs.

The survey results, published on January 20, recorded the drug use breakdown of the 48,469 participants. “Cannabis was the drug used most, with 93 percent of survey respondents reporting to have used it in the previous 12 months and with little variation between countries,” the survey results state. “MDMA/ecstasy (35 percent), cocaine (35 percent) and amphetamine (28 percent) were the next most reported illicit substances, with the order of the three drugs varying by country. Around a third of respondents (32 percent) reported using more (herbal) cannabis and 42 percent using less MDMA/ecstasy.” The results also show that a group of participants had used LSD (20 percent), a new psychoactive substance (16 percent), ketamine (13 percent) and heroin (three percent).

Furthermore, participants from the Western Balkans (which is made up of a Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo) also echoed the high consumption of cannabis, and decreased use in other substances—especially ecstasy. “Most respondents (91 percent) reported using cannabis in the previous 12 months, followed by cocaine (38 percent), MDMA/ecstasy (22 percent) and amphetamine (20 percent). Again, around a third of respondents (32 percent) reported using more (herbal) cannabis and 34 percent using less MDMA/ecstasy.”

In terms of where these substances were consumed, 85 percent of participants in the EU and 72 percent of the Western Balkans used these substances at home, rather than at public venues. It also takes into account that the motivation for cannabis use at home was because of a multitude of reasons. Participants wanted to relax, get high in order to improve sleep, but their use of MDMA or ecstasy was used to attain “euphoric and socialising [sic] effects.”

The study result breakdown states that the information shared by the 50,000 people included in the survey is just a small portion of the EU, but still offers a useful glimpse into the changing habits of residents. “While web surveys are not representative of the general population, when carefully conducted and combined with traditional data-collection methods, they can help paint a more detailed, realistic and timely picture of drug use and drug markets in Europe. Over 100 organisations [sic] took part in the initiative, including the Reitox national focal points, universities and NGOs.”

EMCDDA Director Alexis Goosdeel shared a statement regarding the goal of this survey, and the amount of participation needed from organizations to sort and analyze the data. “Web surveys are a key ingredient in our monitoring of Europe’s shifting drugs problem,” Goosdeel said. “They help us reach an important target population through innovative online methods. Today’s results reveal the wide variety of drugs available across Europe and provide valuable information on emerging trends and changing patterns of use during the COVID-19 pandemic. An impressive 100 organisations [sic] joined us this time in building, translating and disseminating the survey, ensuring that this is now an invaluable tool to help tailor our responses and shape future drug policies.”

Other studies in the U.S. have shed light on other topics related to cannabis, such as targeting teens with ads on social media or an updated Gallup survey that shows that a majority of Americans support legalization.

The post EU Cannabis Consumption Increased and Ecstasy Use Decreased in 2021 appeared first on High Times.