Current Laws and What Might Change

Currently, the sale of recreational cannabis is not legal in Germany, though medical cannabis is permitted. Now that Chancellor Angela Merkel is stepping down after 16 years, leaders from three separate parties are taking over. Those groups say they plan to work on regulation of the adult-use market. The main goal of the legislation is to remove criminal penalties for use of cannabis by those old enough to be protected by the law and to set up a process for its sale. How exactly that would be done is still up in the air.

The bill does address the potential dangers of drugs, creating spaces where people could bring their drugs to have them tested for contaminants or the presence of any other potentially harmful substance that is not supposed to be present in the drug. It would also ensure quality control ahead of time by creating standards by which the cannabis and companies selling it would need to adhere.  The law would protect children, too, making sure advertising for cannabis-based products could not be done in a way to attract children’s attention. Stipulations like that typically keep products from being advertised as candy-like or in other ways that could make kids more inclined to use them. 

Surprisingly, Germans don’t seem to be too excited about marijuana overall, even though it’s listed as the most popular illicit drug in the country, accounting for 77% of drug offenses. CA 2020 study showed a slim majority of people in that country actually oppose legalizing cannabis for recreational use. When asked whether cannabis should be legalized and regulated for adults, 51% of respondents said they didn’t like the idea, where 46% said they support it. The older the respondents, the more likely they were to be opposed; women were more likely to be against it, too. 

Person being arrested by German police Source: Shutterstock
The Free Democrats, a liberal faction in Germany, and the Greens have been pushing for regulated cannabis for some time. They’re now joined by the more moderate Social Democrats. That combined group, known as the “traffic light coalition” or in German, “Ampelkoalition” because it allies the “red, green, and yellow” parties, has agreed to work on compromises. 

The Social Democrats won the election. In the past, that group had called for regulated distribution in moderated studies with participating adults to see how legalization might impact the country. The other two parties have been more gung ho in their approach, with the Free Democrats including legalization and taxation of marijuana in their election program, and the Greens arguing that legalization would reduce organized crime and get rid of the black market. 

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The Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union had talked with the Free Democrats and the Greens in the past, too, hoping in 2017 to advance legislation. It seems they could finally get their wish.  Police unions are against the plan. The head of the German Police Union argued legalization is dangerous and risks trivializing the potential harms of marijuana. Proponents of legal weed argue the country would save money on law enforcement efforts to go after people for crimes that would no longer be considered illegal. 


Germany has already formed an extremely successful medical marijuana market, listed as the fastest-growing in Europe.  A study completed at the University of Dusseldorf estimates legalization and sale of recreational marijuana could raise Germany over €4.7 billion each year. That equates to about $5.3 billion, along with an estimated 27,000 new jobs.

The FDP, however, has been much more reserved in its estimates, saying taxing cannabis similarly to cigarettes would generate more like €1 billion annually.  Legalization in Germany would be good news for other countries too – namely the United States and Canada – because it would add to the European cannabis market and promote free trade. Several companies based in the U.S. and Canada have been attempting to enter Europe’s market. 

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Germany Isn’t Alone

As Wikileaf has previously reported, there are at least 50 countries across the world that have either legalized or decriminalized recreational cannabis to some degree. None, however, have done so in Europe.  Luxembourg, which shares a border with Germany, has also just laid out legislation to legalize marijuana use and cultivation within a person’s own home. That differs from Germany’s plans, since the Germans are hoping to regulate the sale and use of recreational cannabis, and so far hasn’t touched at all on cultivation within a private residence. Luxembourg’s legislation is expected to pass in early 2022.

View of the Old Town and Grund in Luxembourg city Source: Shutterstock
That makes the push for legal adult-use weed a race for the finish line for those two countries. Under that law, though, it would still be illegal to possess more than three grams of marijuana in public. That would remain a civil offense with a small fine, and the new law even aims to reduce the maximum punishment for that from €2,500 to €500.

Italy is moving to decriminalize marijuana, too. That referendum would decriminalize cultivation within a person’s home, and would also put a stop to administrative penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana in public. It would provide the same leniency for psilocybin – the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms.” In October, activists turned in over 500,000 signatures to be able to vote on the bill at the start of next year.  Other countries are moving forward with a more liberal view towards cannabis as well. France is supplying free medical cannabis to qualified patients through a pilot program.

Switzerland is beginning a 3.5 year plan to start up scientific studies on recreational marijuana use and the effects of a legal cannabis market. Malta is also considering moving toward decriminalization of cannabis.  Canada, Georgia, South Africa, Spain, and Uruguay all allow adults to light up, though the purchase and sale of the product is not always permitted yet. Those countries join 16 states in America, plus the District of Columbia and several of the United States’ territories. 

Mexico’s legislature is planning to vote within the next few weeks on a bill that would regulate cannabis. The country had previously moved to prohibit marijuana, but its Supreme Court said the ban was unconstitutional. Now, Mexico is moving in the opposite direction, hoping to tax and monitor the product, rather than outlaw it.