Will Germany's cannabis legalisation law be delayed?

Paul Krantz
Paul Krantz - [email protected]
Will Germany's cannabis legalisation law be delayed?
"Legalisierung" (legalisation) reads the side of a massive joint, held by a protestor at the Hanfparade (hemp parade) in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Annette Riedl

The initial approval Germany’s long discussed cannabis legalisation law has sparked a wave of backlash and criticism, and some states are calling to stall the act indefinitely. Will they have any success?


The Bundesrat is due to meet on Friday to discuss Germany's forthcoming cannabis legalisation act.

Karl Lauterbach, Federal Health Minister who supports the legislation, has warned that some members of the Bundesrat may jump on a chance to refer the draft law to a joint mediation committee, which could seriously delay or even kill the law entirely.

Some opponents to legalisation have proposed to postpone entry of the law to October 1st. Others would rather see it severely reduced in scope, or even blocked indefinitely.

Why does the Bundesrat have a say?

After a bill has been approved by the Bundestag, it is sent to the Bundesrat as an act. Here the Bundesrat has a chance to grant its consent for an act, or in some cases to challenge it.

According to information published by the Bundestag, some bills require the consent of the Bundesrat, “For example, acts that affect the finances and administrative competencies of the states.”

The cannabis legalisation act includes amnesty for past crimes no longer punishable under the new law, which would effectively require states to review the cases of people previously convicted of marijuana charges. This could be seen as 'affecting states’ administrative competencies'. Some states argue that it would put an additional burden on the justice system.

READ ALSO: PODCAST - Germany's cannabis law explained, immigration rule changes and Berlinale backlash


The Bundesrat could not directly amend the cannabis legalisation act, but it could refer the matter to a mediation committee. Supporters of the act warn that CDU/CSU leaders may try to use the mediation committee process to effectively block the act altogether.

Saxony's State Premiere Michael Kretschmer (CDU) has openly stated his intention to kill the act. On Saturday Kretschmer wrote on X that the Free State of Saxony will vote to call the mediation committee with a goal to ensure that the law will never leave.

SPD politician and Bundestag member Carmen Wegge, who supports the cannabis law, said in a statement provided to The Local: "The fact that the Union is now trying to call the mediation committee for tactical reasons [and] use tricks to stop legalization is undemocratic and, in my opinion, more than frightening."

For his part, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said that state-level opposition could cost Germany its chance to end failed cannabis policy: "If federal states force the cannabis law into a mediation committee, it won't come out," he wrote on X.

However, it is still possible that the act bypasses the mediation committee if dissenting state cabinets don’t amount to enough votes. Typically states that fail to reach complete agreement abstain from voting in the Bundesrat. State cabinets are currently discussing their voting behaviour ahead of Friday’s meeting.


Health minister Lauterbach in front of marijuana ad

Karl Lauterbach (SPD), Federal Minister of Health, stands in front of a poster for an educational campaign on cannabis. The health minister is a proponent for legalisation, suggesting that criminalizing marijuana use is a boon to the black market. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

What are the arguments for and against blocking legalisation?

Three committees in the Bundesrat are calling for the cannabis legalisation act to be sent to the mediation committee. Among them are the Committee on Internal Affairs, the Committee on Legal Affairs, and the Health Committee.

The Transport Committee recommends that the law be passed as is.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach is working to avert a possible failure of the legalisation by April 1st. He announced that the federal government would issue a statement by Friday to try to address some of the states’ concerns.

Beyond the parliamentary bodies, the state interior ministers and doctors' associations are among the opposition to legislation.

READ ALSO: Will cannabis legalisation in Germany lead to a boom in sales?

Michael Hubbmann, president of the Professional Association of Paediatricians and Adolescent Physicians, warned about the potential dangers to minors in a statement made to Funke media group. Adding that, "We can already see with alcohol and nicotine that [prohibiting use for minors] does not work in real life".

But the association president may be overlooking the numbers of people already using cannabis in the country.

According to a 2021 survey cited by the The Federal Ministry of Health, 8.8 percent of all adults aged 18 to 64 said they had used cannabis at least once in the last 12 months, and 9.3 percent of 12 to 17-year-olds said they had tried cannabis at least once in their lives. 

Proponents of legislation suggest that criminalisation doesn’t prevent drug use. Therefore legalisation helps to reduce harm by regulating the industry and the quality of product on the market.


Health Minister Lauterbach warned that Germany should not miss its chance to update its cannabis policy. "In my view, that would be a triumph for the black market,” Lauterbach said.

How likely is legalisation by April 1st?

Efforts to block the immediate legalisation of cannabis have stirred up a media frenzy around the ongoing political debate, but for her part, Wegge thinks the act will ultimately go forward as planned.

“I continue to assume that the cannabis law will come into force on April 1st," Wegge told The Local. "In my opinion, the CDU/CSU has no technically valid reasons to be against this proposed law."

She added that by holding out against the act, which has already passed the Bundestag with a majority vote, the conservative parties are tuning out the reality of modern life in Germany: "With the Cannabis Act we will end the current chaos and unacceptable status quo in our cannabis policy. I am convinced that the current scaremongering will fizzle out in a few months, and will ultimately be unfounded.”


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