The Germans may not have positioned themselves on the temporal forefront of legalization, however, as of early 2017, they certainly appear to be destined to play an important role in the next step of the discussion globally.
Late last year I published a detailed post about the German cannabis reform, and there have been plenty of developments since then.
As of January 19 – the day before Trump was inaugurated in the United States, the German lower house of Parliament – the Bundestag – unanimously passed full-fledged medical marijuana reform.
The bill must still be “read” in the upper house of Parliament which is expected to happen sometime in March.
And the rest, as they say, will be history. Germany at that point will become the first country in the world to both reschedule the drug and cover it under national health insurance. Doctors will be able to prescribe the drug at their own discretion, to any chronically ill patient they deem needs it, and for whom other regimes have failed. Patients, as they can now, although the process is far more time intensive and rigorous, not to mention expensive, can pick up their bud at any mainstream pharmacy with a doctor’s prescription.
Because this is a federal decision, this affects patients across the country.
That said, Berlin is likely to be one of the areas where medical reform becomes reality the fastest, especially given the additional pressure on the federal government to green light a special recreational trial as well. That said, it is not going to be the only place where either medical or recreational reform makes the news.
Other cities are looking closely at what is going on in Berlin on the recreational front, the steps the German federal government is going through on the medical side of the ledger and assessing their own situations.
The reality is that every German city and town have an open-air drug market, that must be policed, and Germans have increasingly less and less tolerance for spending money on arrests of the same low-level dealers, who are often right back out on the street.
Regional Reform With a Federal Flair
What is likely to happen after March is that Berlin’s recreational trial will be given additional backing at the federal level. Berlin is the only city-state in the country, and there has been enough pressure on the recreational front to let the city experiment with a highly limited recreational trial, that is also specifically following in the steps of the infrastructure and regulation set up for the medical market. The medical side of the equation is actually where the bulk of focus, interest and money is right now in Germany, and it is likely to remain that way for at least the next several years – at least until the country begins to cultivate its own domestic crops. That will not happen before 2018.
However, once Berlin’s own recreational trial begins, look for similar experiments – both medical and recreational – in cities like Bremen, in the north of the country, Dusseldorf in the central west, and even Frankfurt, home of the most sophisticated and wealthy international group of Germans in the country thanks to its other identity as a banking centre.
There are many, many questions which the government is currently wrestling with – including how to track medical users in compliance with German medical law, but which they must now address thanks to the mandate of the new medical legislation.
There is also likely to be a major push on funding for cannabinoid research here given the German interest in all things R&D and medicine related, particularly for a drug that offers to lower the overall cost of care for patients on the far and most expensive end of comprehensive health insurance, that is absolutely covered by the federal government.
As a result, look for an industry to develop here that is more like Israel’s than Canada’s at least in the shorter term. By integrating the drug fully into the mainstream of healthcare here, Germany is going to have to answer a lot of questions about the use of the drug, therapeutically, that have to date been punted downstream in all legalizing countries. This includes longer term impact of medical use on overall health and metabolism as well as specialized applications of cannabinoids in medication for conditions ranging from movement disorders to diabetes.
And most of that discussion – at least for the first couple of years – means that with a few “trials” and “limited market experiments” on the rec side, and mostly to clamp down on black market sales, the conversation here is going to be focussed very much on the medical side of the market.
Increasing Business Opportunities
That said, business opportunities are beginning to become more obvious here. While this is very much a market in formation, the first real business conference organized by ICBC is slated for April 2017 and is already drawing international as well as German speakers.
While the market won’t look just like it does in any U.S. state, there is a high interest here in all things cannabis. Just expect the Germans to do things a bit differently – with or without the lederhosen.