Germany’s federal republic form of government allows for the country’s 16 different states to implement different laws so long as they don’t interfere with policies reserved for the federal government, such as foreign policy. Germany’s different states have different cannabis law, for instance, with some states decriminalizing up to 6 grams of cannabis, versus Berlin, which allows people to possess up to 15 grams. Berlin’s new progressive coalition government is now seeking to further liberalize the capital city’s marijuana policy by licensing cannabis coffee shops.
The Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain borough of Berlin voted to allow cannabis coffee shops back in 2013, but the plan wasn’t ultimately approved. This is the first time that the entire city of Berlin has moved forward with legalizing commercial cannabis sales. While Germany’s Federal Ministry of Health will have their say on the issue, it is important that Berlin is taking this step forward.
The new government has to prepare an application for the controlled cannabis delivery model and send it to the Federal Ministry of Health — the conservative ministry rejected the District of Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain application in 2015. However, in the time it takes for the document to be worked out, formulated and submitted, laws may change with the federal elections in 2017. The City Municipality of Bremen is a recent example of a city-state that pursued similar legislation. In April 2016, the new government of Bremen announced the decriminalization of up to three cannabis plants. They also relaxed the criteria for DUI rules and established their coffeeshop-pilot program.
If Bremen and Berlin decide to issue licenses for monitored cannabis shops, chances are there will be a limited number of state-controlled shops in Bremen and Berlin opening as soon as 2018 or 2019; their activities will be the subject of scientific studies. In addition, the new law on medical cannabis use is expected to lead to a rapid increase in patient enrollment starting in Spring 2017. If medical cultivation licenses for German companies are given out next year, Berlin and Bremen coffeeshops could receive legal, domestically grown medical-grade cannabis.
Berlin is a world economic power and the legalization of cannabis coffeeshops in the city would be a huge step forward for the international movement to end cannabis prohibition. Whether this particular coffee shop plan gets implemented, it is clear that Germany, led by its capital city, is moving towards ending prohibition. With medical cannabis already legalized, adult-use decriminalized, and Berlin’s coalition government seeking to legalize cannabis commerce, it is only a matter of time before Germany ends cannabis prohibition.
As Germany goes, the rest of the European Union will soon follow. I am certainly excited about learning about the latest developments in Germany and the rest of Europe at the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) in Berlin on April 10-12, 2017, as it seems like the perfect time for cannabis entrepreneurs and law reform advocates to converge upon this burgeoning cannabis scene. City by city, state by state, country by country, we are making amazing progress around the globe and it certainly appears that Berlin, Germany, will be helping lead our global fight against the failed and harmful policy of cannabis prohibition.