Right now, there is no legal recreational cannabis market in Europe (though there is one recreational legalization). Out of all of Europe, Germany’s medical cannabis market is by far the biggest, and quickly growing. Does this growing acceptance of cannabis mean that a recreational legalization is next? A failed initiative from last year was a setback, but with elections at the end of the month, and Chancellor Merkel standing down, a recreational legalization could come sooner rather than later.
Germany’s medical cannabis market is the biggest in Europe, and it looks like a changing political dynamic could lead to recreational legalization. This is good for consumers everywhere, as more legalized countries mean more and better products. Think about it, until the recent cannabis boom, products like delta-8 THC didn’t exist at all, and now this alternate form to delta-9, which causes less anxiety and couch locking, is available all over the place. Interested parties can check out our large selection of delta-8 THC, thcv, thcp, thco, hhc and delta 10 deals along with plenty of other compounds. The world of cannabis is growing, don’t miss out.
Germany and cannabis law
Germany is a recreationally illegal country when it comes to cannabis. Under the German Federal Narcotics Act, an offender can be sentenced to up to five years in prison for possession. This only covers possession, as there is technically nothing stated legally about use, meaning being caught using is likely to incur civil penalties or some kind of program, so long as the quantity is considered a ‘small amount’.
What’s a small amount? This is actually not specified, and is judged not just by physical weight, but by delta-9 THC content. Different regions of the country have their own limits, ranging anywhere from 6-15 grams. Cultivation and suppling cannabis are predictably illegal, and offenders generally receive up to five years in prison. Supply crimes can vary, with the possibility of garnering anywhere from 1-15 years in prison, depending on circumstances.
Germany approved the use of Dronabinol in 1998, officially allowing a small amount of medical use from that time. A full medical cannabis bill passed in 2017, expanding greatly on the original legalization. At this time, all medical cannabis was imported into the country, mainly from the Netherlands and Canada. This changed in 2019, when Germany legalized the production and exportation of medical cannabis products, thereby entering the global medical cannabis market.
Since that time, Germany has had the biggest cannabis market in Europe. The first German medical cannabis company to enter the Düsseldorf Stock Exchange is Cannovum AG, which entered this past May, 2021.
How big is Germany’s medical cannabis market?
On March 4th, 2020, a list of questions was posed by left party Die Linke to government officials in parliament. According to BfArM – The Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices which oversees the regulation of the cannabis industry in the country, in regards to number of users, a survey performed by the agency showed 13,343 complete records. In its write-up and translation of the article, leading cannabis market intelligence firm Prohibition Partners estimated there were approximately 128,000 patients a year who received medical cannabis from the government, at that time. The government was not able to give a more specific number.
In terms of cannabis imports to Germany, Q4 of 2020 saw 3,264 kilograms enter the country, which is the highest of any quarter so far. This brought the year’s total to 9,249 kilograms. Germany’s import market grew so quickly that there was over a 100% increase in 2018 and 2019, though only 37% in 2020, possibly due to the corona pandemic. In the past, Germany imported mainly from Canada and the Netherlands.
Germany now accepts imports from Portugal, Israel, Uruguay, Spain, and Australia. It’s expected that countries with lower production costs, like Uruguay and Portugal (and likely the legalized African countries soon), will be major providers in the future. Besides imports, Germany is starting to produce itself, with the expectation of domestic suppliers providing 2,600 kilograms a year, or more. This broadening of countries to buy from has had a big effect on one of Germany’s biggest suppliers, the Netherlands, which saw a decrease in exports of 5% for the year, the first time this has happened.
Prior to 2020, Germany’s medical cannabis market was already very large, with statistics from 2019 showing Germany as both the biggest importer and exporter of cannabis oil for Europe, and being a main contender globally. For imports that year, according to worldstopexports, Germany imported $240 million worth of cannabis oil, second only to the US which imported a massive $893 million worth that year. The next European country to make the list was France, in 5th place, with $152.7 million worth of imports. Germany accounted for 7.8% of all cannabis oil imports that year.
In terms of exports, Germany was still the top European provider, coming in fourth place globally with $229.8 million worth exported. The next European country on the list was Spain, with $190.5 million for the year. Topping the list were China at just under one billion, India at $320.8 million, and the US with 309.7 million. All these numbers apply only to cannabis oil, and do not account for other products like cannabis flowers, other concentrates, tinctures, creams, patches, or capsules.
Obviously, the flower market should be examined as well, and Germany is not lacking here, either. In July, 2020, according to BfArM, Germany saw increases in imports in Q1 and Q2 at 16% and 32% respectively for that same year. How much do these increases mean in cannabis weight? In 2018, cannabis flower imports totaled about 3.1 tonnes, which went up to 6.7 tonnes in 2019. In 2020, it rose to the aforementioned 9,249 kilograms, or 9.249 in tonnes.
Will Germany pass a recreational legalization?
This is a great question. Germany’s medical cannabis market is huge, but will this help spur on further expansion by way of a recreational legalization? This has actually come up already. On October 29th, 2020, a recreational bill was rejected in parliament, and not because it didn’t have ample support. The rejection was more due to coalitions, than the idea of mass opposition to it. In Germany, there are six main political parties, as well as other smaller ones. Two of those main parties, the Social Democratic party of Germany, and the Union, (which itself is the combination of two parties including the Christian Democrats led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel) have a coalition.
The Social Democratic party holds 152 seats and is in favor of legalization. However, the Union holds 264 seats and is against legalization. The Social Democrats generally vote alongside the Union members, meaning that together they hold enough seats to derail legalization attempts, even though many of those seats are held by politicians looking to legalize, and other political parties also promote legalization. This is what happened to last year’s proposed bill for an adult-use market. It makes for quite the odd pairing considering how opposite the two parties are on many issues, including cannabis.
The thing is, when you see a government that has a large percentage leaning in a certain direction, strategic coalitions will only last so long, especially as public opinion changes. At a certain point, in order to remain in office, these politicians will have to succumb to the will of the people. This is the same thing that can be seen in North Carolina where republicans are now leading the charge for medical legalization with the understanding – stated by them directly, that they don’t have a choice anymore.
Another main party, the Green party, which currently holds 67 seats, has been gaining support and was vying with Merkel’s Union coalition earlier this year for the top spot in opinion polls. This September there are Bundestag Elections, in which the federal parliament is elected. As Angela Merkel will not be running this year as per her announcement in 2018 to stand down as Chancellor and leader of the Christian Democrats, this certainly opens the door for general change.
A lot has changed since 2005 when Merkel first came to power. The German Hemp Association, which has been conducting polls since 2014, saw 30% in favor of legalizing in their poll that year. This number went up to 46% for legalization within just a few years. In terms of decriminalization, 59% backed it in 2018, and no further poll on the matter has been taken since this time.
Co-founder of Cannovum, Pia Marten (the Berlin based-company which just became the first publicly listed cannabis company in Germany), had this to say: “Looking at the General Election I am excited to see what happens, it could introduce some changes in legislation; recreational would have an impact on our business and we are keeping a close eye on this… If we get a government with a liberal approach, it could happen, then it could make way for recreational use.”
Some are more sure of themselves, like cannabis lawyer Kai-Friedrich Niermann, who stated, “We have had medical cannabis since 2017 and we are now preparing for the big cannabis reform in September. The Federal elections are taking place and we are assuming the Green Party will come into power and legalize cannabis from next year.”
While Prohibition Partners has stated it believes approximately 28,000 people receive medical cannabis a year in Germany, the same firm also believes that there are upwards of four million cannabis users in the country, which means if Germany has a big cannabis market with only medical, it could be massive with recreational. We’ll find out how ready Germany is to embrace this idea at the end of the month.
Many countries are getting closer to recreational legalizations, so its not surprising that the country with the largest cannabis industry in Europe, would be looking to expand further. Germany’s medical cannabis market has been booming since 2017, and with a huge change coming in the political scene what with the end of Merkel’s reign, the former opposition to a legalized recreational market, might finally be taken over by a push to legalize.
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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advise, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.
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