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2020 Global Cannabis Guide – Germany

World Law Group member firms recently collaborated on a Global Cannabis Guide that provides a brief overview of laws and policies regarding the use of cannabis in various jurisdictions. It briefly outlines information on the most important legal issues, from relevant legislation and general information to special requirements and risks.

The guide does not claim to be comprehensive, and laws in this area are quickly evolving. In particular, it does not replace professional and detailed legal advice, as facts and circumstances vary on a case-by-case basis and country-specific regulations may change.

This chapter covers Germany. View the full guide.

GERMANY

CMS Germany

Taylor Wessing

I. Introduction

1. Identify the geographic scope and limits of your answers to the questions below.

The answers refer to Germany.

II. Legislation

2. Please provide links to applicable statutes and regulations.

A. Is there any pending legislation that could materially alter applicable statutes or regulations?

B. Is there any proposed legislation that could materially alter applicable statutes or regulations?

3. Are cannabis laws in your jurisdiction pretty well settled or are they constantly changing in material ways?

Since March 2017 the laws in connection with (medical) cannabis are pretty well settled.

III. General information (e.g., governing bodies, licenses, import/export)

4. What governing body regulates/licenses or enforces activities that are allowed in your jurisdiction?

The German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (“Bundesinstitut fürArzneimittel und Medizinprodukte”, “BfArM”) is responsible (1) for the issuing of licenses to cultivate, produce, trade, import, export, deliver, sell or buy narcotics (“narcotics license”; Section 3 BtMG) and (2) for the tender process regarding the cultivation of cannabis.

An import authorization for medical cannabis (Section 72 AMG) must be granted by the competent authority of the state in which the importer’s company is located. The manufacturing permit (Section 13 of the German Medicines Act) and the wholesale permit regarding medicinal products (Section 52a AMG) is issued by the competent authority of the state in which the business premises are located.

Food (supplements) and cosmetics

The competent authority of the state in which the importer’s company is located is also responsible for the monitoring of consumer products such as cosmetics and food (supplements).

5. What cannabis functions are allowed in your jurisdiction? E.g., growing, processing, retailing.

In Germany, only cannabis for medical purposes is legalized, not for recreational use. However, the Berlin state government is currently discussing a pilot project to allow the provision of recreational cannabis to adults under certain circumstances.

Provided that a respective license from the BfArM has been obtained, cultivating, producing, trading, importing, exporting, delivering, selling, marketing and buying is permitted under German Law (Section 3 of the German Narcotics Act).

However, the cultivation of medical cannabis in Germany is subject to a public tender process. Only the companies who won the public tender process are entitled to cultivate medical cannabis in Germany.

6. What sales or use is allowed in your jurisdiction? E.g., edibles, vaping, tinctures, food additives, etc.

In Germany, cannabis flowers and extracts are available for medical purposes. It is recommended by the BfArM to inhale cannabis via special vaporizers.

Furthermore, finished medicinal products with THC and/or CBD are available for medical use.

Products with CBD are offered in various forms: cosmetics, food, food supplements and others. The THC-content in these products must be below 0.2%. However, the legal status of these products is unclear at the moment /please see below under no 17.

A. Are the rules different for medical vs. adult recreational use?

Recreational use is not permitted.

B. Are retail sales of any cannabis products restricted to specific retail channels? E.g., medical dispensaries, government-owned stores, etc.

Medical cannabis (in the form of dried blossoms, extracts and finished medicinal products) can only be sold in pharmacies.

Products with CBS and a THC content under 0.2% do not fall under the German Narcotics Act and do not have to be sold in pharmacies.

C. Are there zoning restrictions on where medical, wellness, or adult-use (recreational) outlets can be located? Applicable to all cannabis products?

7. What import and export is allowed in your jurisdiction?

The import and export of (medical) cannabis requires a narcotic license (Section 3 BtMG). In addition, the import of medical cannabis requires an import authorization (Section 72 AMG).

A. Are there restrictions in relation to the countries of origin, i.e. which countries of origin are permitted?

Prior to importing medical cannabis, the importer has to verify that the cannabis originates from a cultivation under state control in accordance with the UN Convention. According to the German Narcotics Act, only such cannabis can be imported into Germany that has a recognized medical purpose in the country of origin and is subject to control in accordance with the aforementioned requirements under international law; in particular, a national opium agency as outlined in the UN Convention (like the Cannabis Agency in Germany) has to exist in the country of origin.

Currently only medical cannabis from Canada and the Netherlands is imported to Germany on regularly basis. First licenses were issued to Uruguay, Colombia and Denmark.

B. Please describe restrictions on the import of cannabis seeds.

Cannabis seeds are excluded from the German Narcotics Act unless they are intended for unauthorized/illicit cultivation (see Annex I BtMG). Thus, there are no restrictions on the import of cannabis seeds.

8. Does your region distinguish between different types of cannabis products? (E.g., high or low concentrations of

A. If so, what distinctions exist?

B. If so, briefly describe the differences.
C. Identify any related laws that should be considered when answering this question.

The German Narcotics Act distinguishes between

  • cannabis;
  • medical cannabis;
  • seeds;
  • plants and parts of plants that
    • come from a cultivation in EU countries of certified seed, or

    9. Are there legal requirements on Cannabidiol (CBD) products (without THC)?

    CBD as such is not subject to the German Narcotics Act unless the possible THC traces do not exceed 0.2%.

    However, regarding CBD products in food (supplements), the German Food Law has to be respected, in particular the European regulations on Novel Foods. For CBD in cosmetics, the European Regulation on Cosmetic Products (No 1223/2009) does apply.

    IV. Patients and prescriptions

    10. What specific medical conditions, if any, are recognized for treatment with cannabis?

    Under Section 31 (6) SGB V, persons with a serious disease insured in the German Statutory Health Care Insurance (SHI) (approx. 90 % of the population) are entitled to obtain cannabis in the form of dried flowers or extracts of pharmaceutical-grade quality and to medicinal products containing the active ingredients dronabinol or nabilone if

    1. a generally recognised treatment in accordance with the medical standard

    (a) is not available or

    (b) cannot be applied in individual cases according to the reasoned assessment of the treating physician, taking into account the expected side effects and the state of illness of the insured person,

    2. there is a not entirely remote prospect of a noticeable positive effect on the course of the disease or on serious symptoms.

    Private health care insurance funds reimburse the costs of medical cannabis on prescription according to the general rules, i.e. if it is required for an effective curable treatment.

    11. Is there a licensed practitioner requirement in order to prescribe cannabis for medical purposes?

    Medical cannabis can be prescribed by every licensed physician.

    12. Are there patient registration or cardholder requirements?

    No. However, the costs for prescribed medical cannabis are only reimbursed to patients insured in the SHI provided that the respective health insurance fund has given its approval before the first prescription. The approval of the SHI can only be denied in justified exceptional cases.

    V. Special requirements

    13. Does your jurisdiction require any recordkeeping from seed planting to the time of end user sale? For all cannabis products?

    Yes. Pursuant to Section 17 BtMG, the holder of a license shall be obliged to keep records regarding each receipt and each dispatch of narcotics. This however only applies for cannabis products which are subject to the German Narcotics Act (in particular products with an THC-content over 0.2%).

    14. Are special taxes imposed? On what and when?

    15. Are there any special rules or limitations that apply to the industry? E.g., banking, patent or trademark protection, labeling requirements.

    There are special requirements regarding the advertising for narcotics. In general, it is forbidden to advertise narcotics. However, it is allowed to advertise medical cannabis towards physicians, dentists and vets.

    16. What is the legal status of access to financial services, including banking, merchant services, and cash handling?

    No special requirements.

    17. Is data collected to determine the social or health impact of the rules in your jurisdictions? E.g.,

    A. Impact on use by under age/minors.

    B. Impact on beer, wine and spirit sales.

    C. Tax revenue.

    D. Impact on crime, including drug and alcohol addiction.

    The BfArM carries out a non-interventional study regarding the prescription of medicinal products which shall run until March 31, 2022. Each physician who prescribes medical cannabis is therefore obliged to provide the BfArM with the data required for the study in anonymous form.

    VI. Risks and enforcement

    18. What are the most critical issues currently facing the industry in your jurisdiction?

    At present, the classification of CBD products in Germany is unclear. The BfArM generally considers CBD products as medicinal products assuming pharmacological effects. However, CBD products are also distributed as food, food supplements or cosmetic products in Germany. The compliance with German law of distributing the products as food or food supplements remains uncertain, especially in the light of the recent inclusion of CBD in the Novel Food catalogue by the European Commission. Lately, local food authorities have issued orders against the distribution of CBD products as food or food supplements.

    Furthermore, pursuant to the BfArM, the first German harvest of cannabis can be expected in the fourth quarter of 2020. However, experts doubt that the companies who won the tender process are ready to harvest cannabis by then. In addition, the amount which was awarded during the recent tender process seems already too little. It remains to be seen whether the BfArM will award new amounts any time soon or whether the need will be still covered by imports.

    19. What is the current enforcement landscape with respect to cannabis? E.g., strict enforcement, low-enforcement, decriminalization, legalization.

    The punishability with regard to narcotics is regulated in the Sections 29 et seq. BtMG. Section 29 (1) No. 1 BtMG for example states that a prison sentence of up to five years or a fine shall be imposed on anyone who illicitly cultivates, manufactures, trades in, without trading, imports, exports, sells, gives away, otherwise puts into circulation, acquires or otherwise procures narcotic drugs. Section 29 (1) No. 3 BtMG also makes the possession of narcotics punishable without having a written permission for the acquisition (e.g. a prescription). A prison sentence not less than five years shall be imposed on anyone who cultivates, manufactures, trades in, imports or exports narcotics in no small quantities without permission and acts as a member of a gang.

    A. Does enforcement differ based on quantity?

    Yes. In the case of illicitly trading, manufacturing or selling of narcotics in no small quantities or in the case of possessing narcotics in no small quantities without having obtained them on the basis of a licence, imprisonment cannot be less than a year (cf. Section 29a BtMG). However, the public prosecutor’s office may waive prosecution if the offender cultivates, produces, imports, exports, transfers, acquires, otherwise procures or possesses narcotic drugs in small quantities for his own use only. However, the quantity of cannabis which is considered as small – whereas the amount of THC and not the gross quantity is decisive – differs from state to state in Germany.

    B. Does enforcement differ based on product type?

    Enforcement does not differ based on the product type in which the cannabis is entailed (e.g. if it is a joint or a hash brownie), rather, the amount of THC is decisive. As regards CBD products which are sold as food (supplements) with a low THC amount (less than 0.2 %), local food authorities can also act on the basis of food law due to the inclusion of CBD in the Novel Food Catalogue. This issue does not exist regarding CBD products distributed e.g. as cosmetic products.

    VII. Your practice and useful links

    20. Tell us a little about your cannabis practice and how it interacts with other practices at your firm. Remember to include any recognition awards your firm has received in this practice area. How much experience does your firm have providing services to cannabis companies and how much interest does your firm have to grow its cannabis practice?

    TW: Taylor Wessing has demonstrated its interest in the thriving cannabis sector by creating a Cannabis Working Group consisting of experts whose expertise are of special relevance for the cannabis industry hereby following its principle to act as a “one stop shop” for firms. Combining the knowledge and experience of its experts in such areas as M&A, finance, tax, employment, trademarks and regulatory law, Taylor Wessing has advised U.S. and Canadian investors in connection with an investment into a German pharmaceutical wholesaler for medical cannabis and on setting up a business in Germany with the purpose of import and wholesale of medical cannabis in the past. Further, Taylor Wessing has advised leading Canadian growers and suppliers of medical cannabis on setting up a subsidiary in Germany as well as on participating in the tender procedure of the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) for the “Cultivation, processing, storage, packaging and delivery of cannabis for medical use”. In addition, Taylor Wessing has also advised CBD-products manufacturers and distributors in disputes with regulatory authorities concerning sale and marketing of CBD-products. Taylor Wessing has won the award for best law firm 2019 for pharmaceutical law due to its expertise in the life sciences sector (awarded by Handelsblatt in cooperation with Best Lawyers).

    CMS: CMS has put a special focus on the growing cannabis business. To merge the expertise in the cannabis sector within CMS worldwide, CMS has founded a “Cannabis Initiative” within its long existing Lifesciences & Healthcare Sector Group. In this initiative, CMS lawyers from all relevant practice areas connect to discuss and advise on the pressing topics for the cannabis industry. CMS has been active in the sector for more than three years. In Germany, we have in particular advised Canadian and US-based companies in relation the BfArM tender process for cultivation licenses and have been instructed by both investors and private companies in M&A transactions in the sector. Moreover, we regularly advise clients on regulatory and advertising rules for medical cannabis as well as food and cosmetics with CBD. In 2018, CMS has been awarded the JUVE Law Firm of the Year Award for Pharmaceuticals & Healthcare with specific reference to our activities in the Cannabis sector.

    21. Please provide links to any firm website, blogs, reputable trade publications, or attorneys that would help others understand the state of the law in your jurisdictions.

    A. Are there any relevant trade organizations?

    B. Are there any relevant lobbying organizations?

    Cannabis in Germany. What is the marijuana situation in this country?

    Marijuana use in Germany is illegal. However, as in other European Union countries, using Cannabis in small quantities is permitted. Despite the fact that a large part of society is seeking marijuana use and cultivation decriminalisation in Germany, there are still many voices against it.

    In today’s article here we will analyse Germany’s marijuana situation through some key points that you can find in the table of contents below.

    Table of contents:

    Possession and Use of Marijuana in Germany

    In Germany it is illegal to consume marijuana. This country has a Federal Narcotics Act which makes marijuana possession punishable by up to five years in prison. However, the use of marijuana in Germany is not a crime and the legal framework in Germany favours people who have been found with a small amount of marijuana can undergo treatment instead of punishment.

    However, in Germany, the latter will always depend on the background of the person from whom the marijuana has been seized. Thus, facts such as third parties involvement in seizures or recidivism are essential in this country to distinguish between a sanction, criminal proceedings or a simple rehabilitation process.

    As for marijuana possession in Germany, it is regulated by the so-called “small amount of Cannabis“. By carrying a small quantity of marijuana, the user can justify that it is his own private use and will not market to others.

    But what is a “small amount of Cannabis in Germany”? This depends on the federal statewhere we are. Also, it is power and weight determines too which quantity is small and intended for self-consumption and which is not. For example, an amount of 7.5 grams of marijuana with THC or less would be considered small amounts of marijuana in Germany.

    Growing Marijuana in Germany

    The legal situation for marijuana growing in Germany is just as restrictive as for use or possession. This is why growing marijuana in Germany is usually illegal. However, as other EU countries, due to the high demand for recreational and medical cannabis, almost a hundred marijuana producers have already applied for a license and some of these requests are being treated.

    Marijuana sales in Germany

    Selling marijuana in Germany is also prohibited. In fact, selling cannabis carries greater penalties and sanctions than its cultivation. Penalties for the marijuana sales in Germany are regulated by the same Federal Law on Narcotic Drugs, which prescribes penalties of up to 5 years’ imprisonment for those who commit this offense.

    In addition, the penalties can be increased to 15 years’ imprisonment depending on a number of aggravating factors. These include supplying large quantities, selling marijuana to minors, using weapons or even belonging to an organized gang.

    Cannabis Medicinal status in Germany

    Since 2017 the use of medicinal Cannabis in Germany has been decriminalized, now it can be used after being justified and approved by a doctor. Germany is, in fact, one of the European countries where medical cannabis has a more favorable situation and is already one of the largest markets medical marijuana.

    The high demand has meant that there are now more than 40,000 patients with various diseases using marijuana in Germany legally, just for medical purposes. This, benefits the regulation of cannabis growing in Germany, making the country less dependent imports and enable it to be self-sustaining in its large medical market.

    On the other hand, many patients reflect how complicated it is to get prescriptions for medical marijuana in Germany. Many professionals are skeptical about marijuana treatment and the poor image of marijuana in many sectors of society complicates the situation.

    The solution for many people from Germany who are looking for the benefits of medical cannabis is drugs based on this plant. Popular products in the medical industry, such as Sativex, are legal in Germany, although their high price makes it less accessible to the users.

    Finally, it is legal to use CBD in Germany. As like other EU countries, the THC concentration of CBD-rich marijuana can never exceed 0.2% to be legal. For this reason, there are many high CBD hemp flowers dispensaries throughout the country.

    Cannabis fines

    As mentioned above, if the amount of marijuana seized corresponds to a ‘small amount’, it is likely that there will be no charges for possession or use. However, it is also possible that a rehabilitation treatment will be imposed.

    However, in recent years there has been an increase in police charges for possession or use on the public highways. If you are caught using or carrying cannabis on the street you will automatically be charged.

    Once you have been charged, it is up to the judge to choose whether it is a criminal case or a simple penalty. Once an individual has been seized with marijuana, even if he has served the sanction, he will have a history on his criminal record. In fact, this history can be used to increase possible future sanctions for carrying or using marijuana in Germany in public.

    Marijuana Seeds Shipments to Germany

    In Experiencia Natural you can order marijuana seeds and all other products with all the guarantees. Our shipments will be delivered in a completely confidential, anonymous and guaranteed way.

    As part of the European Union, Germany adheres to the goods free movement principle that exists in the common European area. Therefore, marijuana seeds, as well as other products related is legal. There is no reason to be afraid of ordering marijuana seeds online in Germany, but keep in mind that you cannot grow them unless you comply with the law.

    Cannabis in Germany – Laws, Use, and History

    It’s illegal to use cannabis in Germany, though the law tolerates small amounts for private use. Some politicians are pushing for complete decriminalisation, though unusually, the majority of the general public are not in favour. However, the market for medicinal cannabis is thriving and soon local medicinal cannabis will be harvested.

      • CBD Products
      • Legal under 0.2% THC
      • Recreational cannabis
      • Illegal
      • Medicinal cannabis
      • Legal since 2017

      Cannabis laws in Germany

      Can you possess and use cannabis in Germany?

      It’s illegal to possess cannabis in Germany, in accordance with the German Federal Narcotics Act (Betäubungsmittelgesetz). Technically, if caught in possession of any drugs, the offender can be punished with up to five years in prison.

      However, using cannabis is not listed as an offence. The law offers a range of alternatives to prosecution if the offender is caught with small amounts of cannabis for personal use. These alternatives are decided based on:

      • The involvement of others
      • The offender’s past history
      • Whether or not the public would benefit from the individual’s prosecution

      In most cases, German authorities adopt a ‘treatment before punishment’ approach; and often postpone or cancel prison sentences if the offender agrees to receive treatment.

      What is a ‘small amount’ of cannabis?

      In 1994, the Federal Constitutional Court highlighted the confusion surrounding the term ‘small amount’. At that time, all the German states had different interpretations of what a ‘small amount’ was. The Federal Court of Justice determined that, to decide whether a quantity of cannabis was small or not, the quantity and potency should be taken into account, not the weight. So, for example, a ‘small amount’ of cannabis might contain 7.5 grams of THC (the substance responsible for the ‘high’) or less.

      It should be noted that some German federal states are more tolerant than others regarding limited personal use of cannabis.

      In those cases, the individual must be able to prove that the cannabis was purely for private consumption and wasn’t going to be sold or supplied to others. Additionally, it must be evident that there was no risk of harm to anyone else (for example, having a minor in the vicinity while using it).

      The amount that constitutes ‘for personal use’ varies from state to state – from six grams (in most locations) to 15 grams in Berlin.

      Can you sell cannabis in Germany?

      The sale and supply of cannabis in Germany is regarded as a more serious offence. If caught, the offender could receive a prison sentence of up to five years, in accordance with the Narcotics Act. The penalty range is increased by one to two, or five to 15 years, if there are other aggravating circumstances. For example:

      • If the cannabis was supplied to minors
      • If minors were involved in the sale or supply
      • If large quantities of cannabis were found
      • If the individual was operating as part of a gang
      • If weapons were found

      Can you grow cannabis in Germany?

      It’s illegal to cultivate cannabis in Germany, and offenders receive the same penalties as for sale or supply.

      In spite of this, the German government has realised the profit-making potential of growing cannabis domestically. At the start of 2019, an official press release stated that 79 bidders had submitted tenders for growing medicinal cannabis in the country; with the final contract being awarded at some point later in the year.

      Is CBD legal in Germany?

      It’s legal to use, purchase and sell CBD under EU law (as long as it contains less than 0.2% THC). However, be aware that there are some ambiguities in the law. It’s legal to purchase a CBD product from a shop, but other forms of low THC cannabis-products may not be.

      For example, a hemp bar owner faces prosecution for selling dried hemp flowers in a tea, and is currently awaiting trial. Hemp is regarded as being low in THC, and it’s ambiguous as to whether the consumption of hemp in this form is prohibited or not.

      Medicinal cannabis in Germany

      Germany introduced new legislation in 2017, permitting the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. Since then, it’s grown to be the biggest medicinal cannabis market in Europe.

      Originally, the law only accepted applications from approximately 1,000 patients. By November 2018, this had risen to 40,000. This makes Germany’s medicinal cannabis programme one of the most robust in the continent. At present, around two-thirds of health insurance companies cover the cost of patients who have been prescribed medicinal cannabis.

      Up until 2019, Germany relied solely on imported cannabis products from abroad to meet the needs of their patients. This caused problems, with supply usually not meeting demand. The situation is set to change though, as the country moves forward with developing its domestic industry.

      Germany’s first harvest of medicinal cannabis was expected towards the end of 2020. However, the coronavirus pandemic has delayed deliveries.

      Available medication

      Germany currently has three medicinal cannabis products available to patients. These are Sativex, Dronabinol, and Nabilone. However, they are all expensive, which means that some patients can’t afford them (unless they’re covered by their health insurance).

      There’s also the option of obtaining cannabis flowers, which are produced by Bedrocan, Tweed and Aurora. These flowers can be purchased at the patient’s own expense, from the pharmacy.

      Obtaining a prescription

      Patients can find it difficult to obtain a prescription for medicinal cannabis. Medical practitioners are wary of issuing prescriptions, as they’re sceptical about cannabis’s medicinal effects, or still believe there’s a taboo associated with using it. They also encounter substantial hurdles when seeking approval from health insurance companies.

      A further obstacle is the German Health Fund’s wariness of insuring pharmaceutical products in general. As it currently only accepts cannabis flowers, costs are high (especially if compared to other forms of cannabis medication).

      Industrial hemp in Germany

      Hemp cultivation was made illegal in 1982. However, this ban only lasted fourteen years. In 1996, hemp growth was permitted again – largely due to widescale protests from farmers, scientists and enthusiasts.

      Since that time, its cultivation has fluctuated. For example, in 1996, 3,500 hectares were used for hemp, plus 750 acres by the Dutch company HempFlax. By 2011, this cultivation had virtually ceased.

      In the years that followed this, the hemp market recovered. Now, Germany is one of Europe’s top five growers; though its harvest yields are dwarfed by neighbouring France.

      Politics and cannabis

      The Christian Democratic Union (led by Chancellor Angela Merkel) has historically been against legalising cannabis. Indeed, some MPs in the party want to see the existing laws tightened, not relaxed.

      Other parties, such as the Green Party, adopt the opposite stance, and call for cannabis to be decriminalised. In 2017, they proposed a bill, The Cannabis Control Act. This not only proposed the legalisation of recreational use, but also outlined a regulated market for the drug’s cultivation, import, processing and sale.

      In fact, aside from the Christian Democratic Union and the far-right AfD, every party represented in the Bundestag supports recreational cannabis legalisation. Some politicians have gone even further. For example, district mayor Monika Hermann called for Dutch-style cannabis cafes to be opened in Berlin.

      Good to know

      If you are travelling to Germany (or currently live there), you may be interested to know the following:

      • 13.3% of young adults (aged 15 to 34) used cannabis in the last year.
      • Cannabis and cannabis resin (hash) are the two most commonly seized drugs.
      • The majority of Germans are against the legalisation of cannabis. A 2017 survey found that 63% opposed the idea.

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      Cannabis history

      Just like many other European countries, cannabis goes back a long way in Germany.

      Archaeological digs in Eisenberg, Thuringia (central Germany) show that cannabis was present at least 7,500 years ago. Cannabis seeds were discovered in cave dwellings, indicating that these ancient people may have used them in domestic life. Another dig in Wilmersdorf (now part of Berlin) uncovered cannabis seeds in a funerary urn, dating back 2,500 years.

      There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that it played an important part in rural German life after this too. 12 th century texts, written by the Benedictine abbess Hildegard von Bingen, claim that cannabis “reduces the bad juices and reinforces the strong ones”, and that it could be used to treat headaches. Her research was respected by many, although the Catholic Church was against the use of the drug.

      By the 1400s, use of cannabis for medicinal purposes was well-established. Although the Inquisition tried to stamp out use of traditional herbalism, its practice persisted in Germany. This is largely thanks to the medieval universities, who went to great effort to preserve the country’s historic practices.

      During this period, cannabis oil was widely used to treat inflammation, coughs, parasitical infections, gonorrhoea and more.

      The trading expeditions to Africa and Asia (around the 1500s) were also significant. Sailors returned with ‘Indian Hemp’; much more potent strains of cannabis. These too were incorporated into medical practice, but their use wouldn’t become widespread until the mid-1800s.

      Cannabis never really went away in Germany. It continued to be valued as a medicine, food product and ritualistic plant right until the 20 th century, when prohibition began to take hold.

      Attitudes to cannabis

      Germany exhibits mixed attitudes towards cannabis. On the one hand, numerous politicians, scientists and people advocate decriminalising recreational use. However, the leading political party (the Christian Democratic Union), and many people across the country, are against making cannabis legal.

      A survey found that the majority of people in Germany were against decriminalising cannabis for recreational purposes. 70% of the women asked didn’t support its legalisation, compared to just 56% of men. Older people were less in favour of continued prohibition; with 72% of people over the age of 60 voting against. For those under 30, just 43% were in support of legalisation.

      Fines or charges?

      Although small amounts of cannabis for private consumption is tolerated, numbers of cannabis-related charges are on the rise.

      Anyone caught with cannabis will be charged, and it is then regarded as a criminal case. Prosecutors may cancel this (and can issue a fine instead). However, even after the case is dropped, the charge remains on the individual’s record for several years. This is sometimes even recorded on the individual’s driving licence too, even if they hadn’t been using cannabis while in a vehicle.

      In 2017, there were 209,204 police investigations into cannabis use. These numbers were considerably higher than the previous year. The charges accounted for 3.9% of all recorded offences; one of the most frequent grounds for investigation.

      It’s an issue that hasn’t gone unnoticed. Politician Marlene Mortler (Christian Social Union) proposed a new system instead; giving offenders the choice of either paying a fine or receiving help from experts. However, with some countries in Europe (and other parts of the world) decriminalising personal use of cannabis entirely, there’s a possibility that Germany may follow suit.

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      Will cannabis be legalised in the future?

      In Germany, a lot is being done (at the time of writing) for the legalisation of cannabis. In the first half of 2020, the number of drug victims increased again. In this context, Karl Lauterbach, an SPD politician and health-policy decisionmaker, called for a gradual liberalisation of recreational use.

      In the meantime, the Association of German Advisors in Criminal Investigations (BDK) have also declared themselves in favour of decriminalisation. However, the parliamentary bill proposed by the Greens, who are willing to legalise cannabis, was not passed. In September 2020, the health committee of the Federal Parliament rejected the draft of a new cannabis control law and, for the time being, the recreational consumption of cannabis remains illegal in Germany.

      While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this article, it is not intended to provide legal advice, as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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