German Marijuana: Europe Preparing to Blaze it Up?

Now all eyes are on Germany. At first, it was thought that center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) candidate Martin Schulz might defeat sitting Chancellor Angela Merkel of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) – a conservative, but definitely an insider. Early state election results suggest the CDU has little to fear however, maybe because Merkel has taken issues such as cannabis off of the table preemptively.

Schulz on Cannabis Neither major candidate seems to have a whole lot to say on the subject of marijuana – let alone fighting drug addiction – but legalisation is very popular with the general public.

Former German parliament president Schulz said in a March online interview with Zeit that he had come to no policy decision on legalising cannabis overall, though he said it was “definitely useful in medicine.” Burkhard Blienert, an SPD ‘drug-spokesman’, was more enthusiastic, saying that gradually legalising cannabis – after further testing and model projects – should be in the party’s election program, in part to weaken the black market.

Merkel on Cannabis For her part, Merkel in 2011 rejected legalisation of cannabis in 2011, claiming that the consumption of small quantities had a heavy risk of dependency and other dangerous side effects – neither claim is likely to be true based on the best evidence – but has been silent on the subject recently.

Maybe that’s because the Bundestag greatly expanded access to legal medicinal cannabis on January 19, 2017. (The law went into effect in March.) Now patients with multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, serious appetite loss or nausea from chemotherapy are eligible. CDU lawmaker Rainer Hayek said, “Today is a beautiful day,” perhaps because the five-year trial program removes cannabis as a campaign issue.

Small amounts of marijuana have long been tolerated, but the new law will lower the cost. Before the German parliament expanded its legality, the cost for an ounce of medical cannabis was $2,000, now it is $12 per ounce.

The law also will allow large-scale domestic production. For the time being, Germany will be receiving much of its legally prescribed cannabis from The Netherlands and Canada, but Ontario-based Maricann, is already setting up production facilities in Germany. (Maricann foresaw the inevitability of German cannabis legalisation three years ago and began preparing for it.) No additional capital was needed due to the low price of the property and other government incentives.

More than a thousand patients have already registered for the program, which allows as much as five ounces per month for patients covered by public health insurance (about 90%). It is anticipated that an additional 5,000 to 10,000 will sign up each year.

Resistance to Legalisation That’s if they can find a doctor willing to prescribe it. Despite the will of German citizens, authorities seem to prefer prevention through abstinence rather than fighting drug addiction after the fact (alcohol and tobacco excepted). Cannabis-related arrests accounted for more than 60% of all drug-related offences, rising from 132,745 to 145,915 (not including trafficking, smuggling, or possession of large quantities).