Germany prepares to turn over a new leaf with legal weed

Published on October 4, 2022
german flag flies in front of government building
Das gut! Germany legalizes cannabis. (AdobeStock)

As the German saying goes, aller anfang ist schwer:  All beginnings are hard. Here’s what lies ahead for the country as it prepares to become the first major European weed market by 2024.

When you think of the world’s largest adult-use cannabis market, your mind probably doesn’t go to Europe. But get ready to update your info, because that could change in 2024 if Germany successfully legalizes adult-use cannabis thanks to its population of more than 83 million people.

To get an inside look at the landscape of legalization in Germany, Leafly reached out to Georg Wurth of the German Cannabis Association, Deutscher Hanfverband (DHV), the primary non-governmental organization behind cannabis legalization in Germany.

Wurth is the first professional cannabis legalization lobbyist in Germany. He’s been impacting weed policy as part of his city council since the ’90s, and in 1996, began to “specialize more and more in drug policy reform.”

Today, DHV is the largest cannabis legalization NGO in Europe, with 30 activist groups across major German cities, like Berlin and Hamburg. Wurth also hosts a weekly cannabis policy news show on YouTube and leads DHV in online public debate.

When asked if legalization in Germany is guaranteed in 2024, Wurth’s response is a familiar one from states on the brink of legalization in the US. “Nothing is guaranteed in drug policy reform until it is reality,” he said.

Still, he was optimistic: “Becoming the world’s third [country] to fully legalize cannabis is quite a big story, with a lot of hurdles. I hope we´ll get it done, and I think we can. But how likely? Today, I say 60%,” Wurth told Leafly.

Signs of support from the German people

an orange sign with the inscription pharmacy in German

In 2021, Ipsos conducted a poll in which 61% of Germans said they would support the controlled sale of cannabis in licensed stores, and there are already reports that the German cannabis industry could bring the country more than $5 billion in annual revenue.

Germany, which legalized medical cannabis in 2017,  currently has an estimated 128,000 medical cannabis patients. Last year, more than 9,000 kilograms (the equivalent of 19,841+ pounds) of cannabis were imported from countries like Canada, Denmark, and Portugal to be studied or sold at German medical pharmacies to be used for medicinal cannabis products.

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This figure was up from around 6,300 pounds the year before, showing that the appetite for medicinal cannabis in Germany continues to grow along with the people’s desire for legal adult-use weed.

Germany’s path to adult-use legalization: What are the obstacles?

symbol of Germany's Traffic Light Coalition

The hurdles that the country faces in legalizing recreational cannabis are numerous. The pandemic, an increase in the cost of living, and Russia’s war on Ukraine are all factors that put strain on politicians seeking to legalize weed, like The Social Democrats (SPD), Greens, and Free Democrats (FDP) — a three-party coalition that came into governing power in late 2021, also known as the Traffic Light Coalition,.

Each party of the coalition has unique reasons for supporting the legalization of cannabis, like reducing illicit sales, though the SPD is reportedly the most eager to see strong regulation with legalization.

Still, Wurth notes that one of Germany’s biggest hurdles will be to overcome pushback from cannabis legalization opponents. In the aftermath of former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s departure, the Traffic Light Coalition is eager to bring fresh energy to the country. Merkel served as Chancellor for sixteen years, and her party, the Christian Democrats (CDU), was known for being more conservative in its views on cannabis.

In addition to international laws, Germany also has to grapple with EU regulations, and experts continue to debate whether the EU could put a stop to Germany’s legalization plans.

“Whether or not our top politicians really want [legalization] and if they are ready to have some tensions on the international level, we will see. It’s a narrow game,” said Wurth.

Positive outlooks on pot

Reichstag building architecture with German Flags in Berlin city center, capital of Germany in winter in the street. German Bundestag parliament house.

As for leading the way in Europe and the EU, Wurth believes there’s “no doubt” that Germany will inspire other countries to legalize recreational cannabis.

“Germany could become the first nation to legalize outside of the Americas. That will bring a big additional momentum not only for Europe, but for the rest of the world!”

What’s certain, Wurth claims, is that there are millions of Germans who love weed and who already accept it as part of their lives.

“I say, we have at least four million people who consumed cannabis in the last 12 months. Some smoked one day, some smoke 365. They do all kinds of things with their lives while being cannabis consumers. Two or three times I was asked, do you come from the cannabis scene? I said, I come from the tax officer scene, from the Green Party scene, from the youth scene. That all makes as much sense as the cannabis scene for me.”

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Rae Lland
Rae Lland
Rae Lland is a freelance writer, journalist, and former editor for Weedist and The Leaf Online. With a focus on culture, music, health, and wellness, in addition to her work for Leafly, she has also been featured in numerous online cannabis publications as well as print editions of Cannabis Now Magazine. Follow her on Instagram @rae.lland
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