By Lauren Smith

Updated: 22 May 2023 & medically reviewed by Dr. Kimberly Langdon

Germany intends to make it legal for adults to purchase and possess up to 30 grams (1 ounce) of cannabis for recreational use, a shift that could set precedent for the rest of Europe.

Germany Unveils Plan to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

“The most liberal project to legalise cannabis in Europe”

German health minister Karl Lauterbach said the country’s current cannabis ban “had no evident success.” 

Over four million people in Germany used marijuana at least once in the previous 12 months, with 25% of them aged 18 to 24. Concerns have been raised about the impact of cannabis, particularly highly potent strains, on the developing brains of adolescents and young adults.[1] 

Through legalization “we don’t want to expand cannabis consumption but to improve the protection of youth and health,” Lauterbach said.

The proposed laws would be “the most liberal project to legalize cannabis in Europe but also the most regulated market,” he added.

Under the proposals, it would be legal to purchase and own a maximum of 20 or 30 grams of cannabis for recreational use and use it privately or in public. Germans would also be able to cultivate up to three cannabis plants.

Cannabis would be sold in licensed establishments such as pharmacies. Advertising would be prohibited and products would be sold in the neutral outer packaging. Cannabis edibles, such as gummies and baked goods, likely wouldn’t be included. This is also true for high THC-containing cannabis concentrates such as shatter

The German government is unlikely to introduce a sweeping cap on the products’ percentage of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. However, 18- to 23-year-olds may only be able to buy less strong cannabis.

The government would also develop cannabis education and abuse prevention programs. Ongoing investigations and criminal cases related to cannabis use now legal would be suspended.

Additionally, a special consumption tax would be levied on cannabis. With these tax revenues and cost savings, legalization would hand the German government a €4.7 billion boost.

Timeline for legalization

Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition government announced its intention to legalize recreational cannabis when it came to power late last year. However, the plans were slowed by worries that legalization might violate EU law and could be thrown out by European courts.

To mitigate the risk of a legal challenge, German will submit an outline of its legalization plans to the European Commission. If Brussels suggests the proposals aren’t compatible with EU law, the German government won't proceed. But with a green light from the European Commission, a draft of the saw could be presented to the Bundestag in early 2023 and could come into force in 2024.[2]

In the European Union, only Malta has legalized cannabis for recreational use. However, medicinal use is permitted in more than 20 European countries, including Germany since 2017.

In the Netherlands, the sale of small quantities of cannabis is permitted in coffee shops. Lauterbach dismissed the Dutch model, which he said “combined two disadvantages: liberal use but not a controlled market." 

“What we have learned from the Dutch experience is that we don’t want to do it that way. We want to control the entire market,” he said.