Peter McCusker – BusinessCann: Is Germany Set To Become Europe’s First Recreational Cannabis Market?

Peter McCusker

A Green surge in Germany is opening up the possibility it could be the first European country to fully embrace adult-use cannabis.

For large chunks of April and May the Greens have vied with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrat-led coalition for top spot in the opinion polls.

And, with a federal Bundestag Election looming this September, the arithmetic behind some form of adult-use reform now looks promising for its supporters.

Long-standing German cannabis advocate Georg Wurth has been the spokesman and director of the German Cannabis Association since its launch in 2002.

Momentum Behind Cannabis

At that time The Greens were the only party in favour of legalisation and polling on 7%. But, for most of this year the Greens have polled between 20-25% and the majority of political parties now favour some sort of cannabis liberalisation.

Mr Wurth said: “We have had 16 years of the CDU (Christian Democrats) and there has been no progress on adult-use. While we have had medical cannabis and there is now a big majority in the Bundestag for recreational cannabis reform.

“After the Elections most of the parties will want legalisation only the Christian Democrats and AFD (Alternative for Germany) still want prohibition.

“All of the others want legalisation or, with the Social Democrats, a legal trial project in some cites and decriminalisation.

“There is a real push on cannabis reform. It’s a public issue that is now to the fore and engages many people. We have a big movement and momentum behind us.”

Favourable Cannabis Polls

This switch in Germany’s attitude to cannabis is demonstrated in regular polls conducted by The German Hemp Association. These started in 2014 with 30% support for legalisation with the later polls showing support rising to 46%.

It no longer conducts a poll into decriminalisation after the 2018 survey showed 59% backing.

Jürgen Neumeyer is Managing Director of the German Cannabis Industry Association  (BvCW) which has over 40 members in the sector.

He said: “It is clear that in Germany the discussion about cannabis reform is happening more often and gaining momentum, with most political parties now in favour of some kind of liberalisation.

“We know that the discussion about regulated cannabis dispensaries is reaching the EU and Germany.

“When the political conditions are in place, there are many questions that need to be clarified, for example: advertising, protection of our youth, tax issues, points of sale, cultivation, quality control, dosage and in what form? The German cannabis industry would then also have to position itself on this.”

Pia Marten
Pia Marten

On The Business Horizon

Pia Marten is Co-founder of Cannovum, a Berlin-based importer wholesaler and distributor of medical cannabis, which recently became the first domestic cannabis company to publicly list.

She said: “We are a medical cannabis company however we monitor the political situations and keep up to date with the regulatory situation which is always changing.

“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.”

German cannabis lawyer Kai-Friedrich Niermann said: “We have had medical cannabis since 2017 and we are now preparing for the big cannabis reform In September.  The Federal elations are taking place and we assuming the Green Party will come into power and legalise cannabis from next year.”

German cannabis lawyer Kai-Friedrich Niermann.

Four Years In The Making

However, Mr Neumeyer believes that even if the political consensus for cannabis becomes clear after the General Election it could still take up to four years – the lifetime of the Parliament – to shape the required legislation.

He added: “Germany has a reputation for its adherence to regulations so it will take some time to build up the legislation.

“You just have to look at CBD and hemp market and see how far Germany is behind on that.”

Prohibition Partners’ recent analysis ‘Germany; Cannabis and CBD Report’ estimates there are almost four million cannabis users in the country and a recent economic analysis priced a legal sector as a €2.7bn economic opportunity.

Although, Mr Wurth believes that unlike in North America jobs, tax revenues and economic benefits take second place to the scientific and societal benefits.

Weaken Hostility To Cannabis

“The financial argument is not as strong as in other countries, here it is more about health – what is best for the people and the children.”

Mr Wurth said that the future of the adult-use cannabis movement should become clear in the weeks after the Election when the horse-trading to form a coalition begins.

These conversations will set out the coalition’s agenda and policies for the Parliament and are binding to all signatories.

This, he explained, is why the Social Democrats as coalition members voted against recreational cannabis in 2021, despite their support for it.

He added: “Our main priority in the run-up to Election day is making cannabis a priority for the main parties…and to weaken the hostility of the Christian Democrats towards it.”

While he hopes for recreational use he believes it may be a case of one-step at a time, with an initial trial process- similar to that in Switzerland – and, or some form of decriminalisation.

How do the Maths Stack-Up? 56% For – 38% Against

In October 2020 the German Federal Parliament rejected a bill to legalise a controlled, adult-use cannabis market.

Angela Merkel’s CDU, its allies the Bavarian CSU and their coalition partners the Social Democrat Party (SPD) voting against.

With only the Greens and The Left in favour, and the Free Democratic Party abstaining.

In the last weekend’s polls the CDU and CSU recorded 26%. They both oppose liberalisation along with the right-wing AFD which was polling at 12%.

All of the other parties support some form of cannabis liberalisation with the ‘liberal’ Free Democrat Party polling 12%, The Greens 21% and The Left at 6% all in favour of legalisation.

Whilst the SPD, who are in favour of decriminalisation and an adult-use regional trial, are on 17%.

The advance of the Greens has partly resulted from public dissatisfaction over the Coalition’s handling of Covid-19 pandemic and its ‘climate change’ focus.

Green Party Policy 

The Green Party says it we will introduce a law that enables ‘the legal and controlled distribution of cannabis in licensed specialty shops.

‘In the future, private adults should be allowed to purchase and own up to 30 grams of cannabis or three cannabis plants for their own use.

‘At the same time, we want to create a regulated and monitored system for the cultivation, trade and distribution of cannabis.

‘In contrast to today, consumer and youth protection as well as addiction prevention should take effect.’

BusinessCann has approached the Green Party for some comments and is awaiting a response. The Election takes place on Sunday September 26.

Top 200 Cannabis Lawyers

We Support

Cannabis Law Journal – Contributing Authors

Editor – Sean Hocking

Author Bios

Matt Maurer – Minden Gross
Jeff Hergot – Wildboer Dellelce LLP

Costa Rica
Tim Morales – The Cannabis Industry Association Costa Rica

Elvin Rodríguez Fabilena


Julie Godard
Carl L Rowley -Thompson Coburn LLP

Jerry Chesler – Chesler Consulting

Ian Stewart – Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP
Otis Felder – Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP
Lance Rogers – Greenspoon Marder – San Diego
Jessica McElfresh -McElfresh Law – San Diego
Tracy Gallegos – Partner – Fox Rothschild

Adam Detsky – Knight Nicastro
Dave Rodman – Dave Rodman Law Group
Peter Fendel – CMR Real Estate Network
Nate Reed – CMR Real Estate Network

Matthew Ginder – Greenspoon Marder
David C. Kotler – Cohen Kotler

William Bogot – Fox Rothschild

Valerio Romano, Attorney – VGR Law Firm, PC

Neal Gidvani – Snr Assoc: Greenspoon Marder
Phillip Silvestri – Snr Assoc: Greenspoon Marder

Tracy Gallegos – Associate Fox Rothschild

New Jersey

Matthew G. Miller – MG Miller Intellectual Property Law LLC
Daniel T. McKillop – Scarinci Hollenbeck, LLC

New York
Gregory J. Ryan, Esq. Tesser, Ryan & Rochman, LLP
Tim Nolen Tesser, Ryan & Rochman, LLP
Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP

Paul Loney & Kristie Cromwell – Loney Law Group
William Stewart – Half Baked Labs

Andrew B. Sacks – Managing Partner Sacks Weston Diamond
William Roark – Principal Hamburg, Rubin, Mullin, Maxwell & Lupin
Joshua Horn – Partner Fox Rothschild

Washington DC
Teddy Eynon – Partner Fox Rothschild