Germany's New Weed Laws: What You Need To Know

Germany has become the first nation in the world to pass a comprehensively progressive medical marijuana plans. 

The new legislation will put marijuana in many pharmacies and mandate public insurers to pay the cost of the cannabis products, as they would in any other prescription, when it is used for “severe health conditions.” 

Germany will also cultivate its own weed. the new law will replace the previous law, which gave permits to citizens to grow their own plants. Now, recreational growers will have no excuse for ‘exotic houseplants.’ 

Drug dealers in Berlin’s open-air market in G√∂rlitzer Park that talked with Highsnobiety were very supportive. “Obviously its not going to be so good for business, but it’s the right thing to do if it can help people,” said Jan*, 24.

He is an African immigrant from Lagos, and is a part of a mixed-immigrant community within the park. Germany is working on implementing its medical marijuana supply chain, and while this is happening, they turn their cheeks to dealers selling dime bags in public spaces. Even though in the near future it will be easier to get free weed from pharmacies, these dealers felt no threat with their competition. 

“We also get people who buy weed from us to treat pain,” said Menis*, 27, a Gambian dealer. “Some don’t come anymore, but a lot of them still do. You don’t get exactly the same experience from the pharmacy products as you do with the marijuana we sell. They spray it with something different. I didn’t like it as much.” Prices are currently around 12-20 euros per gram, compared to the 10-euro price at the park. 

Who Stands to Lose from Medical Marijuana

Data from the United State’s research on medical marijuana could be a positive influence on how things can play out in Germany. There’s also a reason why weed dealers aren’t fearing the new legislation: pharmaceutical companies will lose more customers. There is a difference between annual drug doses prescribed by physicians in states that allow medical marijuana, and in states where it’s illegal, according to a study done in 2015.

There were 1,826 fewer painkiller doses prescribed, followed by 562 fewer anxiety medications and 541 fewer pharmaceutical nausea treatments prescribes in states where patients can undergo cannabis treatment. 

The U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research found that legal access to medical marijuana has a correlating link to a huge drop in the number of people dying and abusing prescription painkillers. This is being caught by the German eye as they have began to stray from pharmaceuticals to natural products. Over half of the german population has utilized a form of homeopathic treatment, with the awareness and usage of natural drugs rising since the introduction of them in pharmacies in 1976. 

Germany Is Not California

California’s medical marijuana dispensary program has one of the most liberal requirements in the determination of who could apply for a medical card. They are often used for recreational smoking than just for treating an illness. Since 2004, more than 91,000 medical marijuana cards were issued, according to California’s Department of Public Health.

“Germany has much stricter guidelines than California for prescribing marijuana,” said Goerg Wurth, head of the German Hemp association. “Almost anyone who wants a prescription can get one there. In Germany things are more regulated and bureaucratic. Doctors are checking to make sure medical marijuana is not used for recreational purposes.”

There are around 30 illnesses that the German government that suggests it to this who have attention deficit disorder, chronic pain and epilepsy. Even when you do get the doctor’s permission to use medical marijuana, the German system is more structured than the dispensary model.

Instead of setting up new businesses that sell weed, Germans must go through pharmacies. While doctors can prescribe cannabis for a range of ailments, only those that prove to be “severe” will receive a reimbursement from public insurers. Doctors also have more sway over what kind of cannabis you can get.“Although you can get smoking and edible options, it is more likely doctors will suggest vaporizers or THC drops, which are less harmful and easier to dose,” Wurth said.

Where Does Germany Stand Compared to Its Neighbors?

Germany is in the middle when it comes to marijuana legislation in Europe. While many of its neighbors haven’t brought up medical marijuana in their parliaments, whereas Spain and the Netherlands have cities that legalized recreational use of marijuana. Even though many European states have legalized medical marijuana, Germany will be producing weed along with the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Italy. “There is more movement for weed legalization than ever before in the world, and it won’t be long until the first European country fully legalizes it,” Wurth said.

Recreational Smoking Is Still Illegal

Even with the easy access of medical marijuana, the German government has been obviously clear in stating that the law isn’t intended to be a step towards legalization of recreational consumption.

The government cites health concerns as the predominant reason for keeping weed away from the publics hands.“International studies from the last 10 years show that the use and abuse of cannabis can be associated with a number of serious short-term and long-term risks, particularly among young people,” the German Health Ministry said.

 “Psychological and psychosocial disorders (such as schizophrenic psychoses), organ-medical effects (such as cardiovascular diseases) and neuro-cognitive impairments (such as the impairment of learning attention and memory functions) are mentioned.”

Still, those pushing for legalization see the new law as a possible step towards it, looking to countries such as the United States and Canada which progressed to legalization after introduced medical marijuana. Eight states recently legalized marijuana in the U.S., whereas Canada introduced legislation to legalize marijuana throughout the whole country just this spring.

“I believe that medical marijuana will relax the attitudes of Germans towards cannabis, especially the older, more conservative generation,” Wurth said. “The decision to legalize it for medical purposes was more or less unanimous, whereas the majority of Germans still don’t think it should be legal for recreational use.”

In the latest European Drug Report, it was found that nearly a quarter of Germans had experimented with marijuana. Germany may lack the political will for blanket legislation, but there are many local governments and initiatives willing to take a chance.

In Berlin, there are groups that have conveyed an interest in the city being a testing site for legalization to view whether a change in the law could lead to a drop in the crime rate.“It will eventually become legal in Germany,” Wurth said. “But for it is good that we are taking care of patients.”

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