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Is it legal to grow cannabis in a German allotment garden?

Rachel Loxton
Rachel Loxton - [email protected]
Is it legal to grow cannabis in a German allotment garden?
Three plants hang on a branch in an allotment. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jessica Lichetzki

Germans love their Kleingärten - or allotment gardens. Now that cannabis has been partially legalised in Germany, some people are wondering if it is legal to grow weed there. Here's what you need to know.

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Germany changed the law around cannabis on April 1st. 

Under the first step, adults over 18 are now allowed to carry 25 grams of dried cannabis and cultivate up to three marijuana plants. 

Many people in Germany have an allotment garden - known as Kleingarten or Schrebergarten. This is a plot of land that city-dwellers can rent out to use as their own garden. They can grow various things there like flowers and vegetables. 

There are over 900,000 throughout the country, and the Federal Association of German Garden Friends estimate around five million people use a Kleingarten.

READ ALSO: How to get a Kleingarten in Germany

So is it possible to grow cannabis there?

As always when it comes to Germany, the laws are tricky to clarify but in general the answer is: no. According to the German Health Ministry, cultivating marijuana plants in allotment gardens is generally not permitted - because growing cannabis is only legal 'at someone's place of residence' under the new law. 

A ministry spokesperson told DPA that cultivation in allotment gardens would only be legal on the condition that the person growing the cannabis is resident there.

"This is not usually the case," said the spokesperson, referring to the Federal Allotment Garden Act which does not allow people to have homes at their allotment. 

It is regulated by law that an arbour or shed in an allotment garden is not suitable for permanent residence. "In addition, the legislator expressly rejected the conversion of arbours into small private homes in the procedure for the Federal Allotment Garden Act," said the ministry spokesperson.

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There is one exception, however. 

It applies within the framework of the protection of existing rights if the owner of an allotment garden already lived there or used the allotment as a residence before the Federal Allotment Garden Act came into force more than 40 years ago.

"The rights of an allotment gardener to use his allotment garden for residential purposes remain in force if they existed when the Federal Allotment Garden Act came into force on April 1st 1983 and no other regulations prevent residential use."

Someone holds part of a cannabis plant

Cannabis is partially legalised in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

The German Hemp Federation had been questioning whether cultivation at allotments was allowed, and said they believed it was under the law. 

The federation pointed out that the text of the law states that adults can grow up to three cannabis plants "at their place of residence or habitual abode".

But that the explanatory notes go on to say: "Private cultivation is the cultivation of cannabis in the private home. The term ‘dwelling’ within the meaning of this law includes all premises dedicated to private residential purposes, including gardens, allotments, weekend houses, holiday homes, etc."

For this reason there has been confusion - but the Health Ministry has tried to clarify this by pointing out the various laws and the exception regarding allotments. 

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Can you smoke cannabis at an allotment garden?

So people cannot cultivate cannabis at their Kleingarten - but can they legally smoke it?

The answer is yes - as long as the person in question is an adult and the garden is not near a school or similar facility. 

Under the new law, cannabis will remain banned for under-18s and within 100 metres of schools, kindergartens and playgrounds.

As the next step in the legal reform, from July 1st it will be possible to legally obtain weed through "cannabis clubs" in the country.

These regulated associations will be allowed to have up to 500 members each, and will be able to distribute up to 50 grams of cannabis per person per month.

However, given that the cannabis law was passed at short notice on April 1st, it is unclear how many of these clubs will be established in time for July. 

READ ALSO: What to know about Germany's partial legalisation of cannabis

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