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How German Cannabis Laws Compare to Other Legal Nations

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PHOTO Maheshkumar Painam


How German Cannabis Laws Compare to Other Legal Nations

A closer look at just how Germany’s new national legalization model compares to other countries with legalized cannabis.

Germany made history on April 1, 2024 when it became the largest nation to ever pass and implement a national adult-use cannabis legalization measure. While Uruguay, Canada, Malta and Luxembourg adopted national adult-use cannabis legalization measures prior to Germany doing so, the combined populations of those four nations are only roughly half that of Germany’s population.

Furthermore, Germany is home to the third-largest economy on the planet, and Europe’s largest economy. Germany possesses tremendous political influence both at the continental and international levels, and as such, the significance of legalization in Germany can’t be overstated.

Beginning April 1, adults in Germany were legally allowed to cultivate up to three cannabis plants in their private residences and possess up to 25 grams of cannabis while away from their homes. The legal age for adult-use cannabis in Germany is set at 18 years old. The new legalization law made for a historic International Cannabis Business Conference in Berlin on April 16 and 17, and a very memorable 420 for cannabis enthusiasts across Germany.

Additionally, as part of the new law’s implementation in Germany, cannabis was removed from the nation’s Narcotics List. The removal of cannabis from Germany’s Narcotics List will dramatically improve the nation’s medical cannabis program by eliminating previous quota limits on domestic medical cannabis production and making it easier for suffering patients to become approved for the German medical cannabis program. Presumably, many patients will also rely on the new personal freedoms afforded to them by the new German cannabis laws.

The Pillars of Germany’s Cannabis Policy Modernization Effort

Noncommercial cannabis clubs are expected to launch in Germany starting in July. Consumers will be able to join the clubs and legally source cannabis from them as members. Clubs, combined with home cultivation, will serve as the initial foundation from which cannabis consumers can legally source their cannabis in Germany. Personal cultivation, possession, consumption and cannabis clubs are part of the “first pillar” of Germany’s policy modernization effort.

Eventually, the second pillar of Germany’s cannabis legalization model will be implemented. This phase will involve the launch of regional adult-use cannabis legalization pilot projects. Such pilot projects permit limited cannabis commerce at a local level for research purposes. It’s unclear at this time when Germany will officially launch its pilot projects.

National Cannabis Policies Around The Globe

Unfortunately, German cannabis laws can’t look like exactly like those in Uruguay and Canada due to European Union agreement limitations. Whereas medical cannabis can be sold in European Union member nations, and limited adult-use sales for research purposes are also permitted, national adult-use sales remain prohibited.

Uruguay became the first nation on the planet to pass a national adult-use legalization measure back in 2013, with national sales beginning in 2017. Like Germany, the legal age for recreational cannabis in Uruguay is 18 years old. Adults can cultivate their own cannabis, join noncommercial cannabis clubs, and make legal purchases from Uruguay pharmacies. Medical cannabis is dispensed through Germany’s pharmacies, but there are no current plans to do so with adult-use cannabis products.

Canada was the second country to pass a national adult-use measure. In 2018 the North American country became the first G-7 nation to pass such a measure. Canada remains the largest legal cannabis commerce experiment on Earth, with consumers ages 18 and older allowed to order recreational cannabis through the mail, via home delivery, and through brick-and-mortar retail outlets. The goal of many cannabis advocates in Germany and throughout Europe is to reform EU agreements to permit more components of Canada’s legalization model.

Malta became the first European nation to ever pass a national adult-use legalization measure in 2021. The legal age for cannabis in Malta is also set at the age of 18, just as it is in Germany, Uruguay and Canada. However, cannabis commerce is limited to noncommercial cannabis clubs in Malta. Adult consumers can also cultivate their own cannabis—up to four plants. Home cultivation and cannabis clubs are the only legal means by which adults can acquire cannabis for recreational use in Malta.

Luxembourg is the other remaining nation with a national adult-use legalization measure. The nation’s legalization model is the most-restrictive of the legalized countries. Adults 18 and older can cultivate up to four plants in private in Luxembourg and possess up to three grams of cannabis away from their homes.

Other Noteworthy Cannabis Legalization Models

Three other noteworthy legalization models can be found in the United States, Switzerland and the Netherlands at local levels. Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia have passed local legalization measures in the US, including measures that permit adult-use cannabis sales in some markets. Cannabis remains prohibited at the federal level in the US.

Switzerland and the Netherlands permit regional adult-use cannabis commerce pilot projects, although they’re not as large and widespread as what’s expected for German cannabis in the near future.

Legal decisions were previously handed down in South Africa, Mexico and Italy that afford some level of protections for adult cannabis consumers. Yet, the court decisions in those nations don’t equate to the same level of protections that are found in Uruguay, Canada, Malta, Luxembourg and Germany.

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