The ABCs of Cannabis Legalization – Germany

Berlin. Proponents say cannabis is a medicinal plant. Opponents argue that consumption leads to psychosis. Long illegal and equated with so-called hard drugs, in the future it will be possible to get drunk on the soft drug to a certain extent without legal consequences. An ABC about cannabis.

A for extension

Cannabis is extracted from the hemp plant. This grows in almost all climate zones of the earth and has no high demands. In Europe, cultivation is often done indoors because of the higher yield and concentration of the intoxicating substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Illegal cultivation is not to be confused with the industrial use of the hemp plant. This has been allowed again in Germany since 1999. However, only varieties that have a maximum THC content of 0.2 percent may be used.

B for Bubatz

This is an artificial term for a “joint”, i.e. a cigarette with cannabis. The dried flowers of the plant are often mixed with tobacco and rolled into a cigarette. Bubatz is also an alternative name for “grass” or “weed”. In German-speaking countries, the expression is mainly used in the hip-hop scene.

A woman rolls a joint.  The cigarette with cannabis is colloquially called Bubatz.

A woman rolls a joint. The cigarette with cannabis is colloquially called Bubatz.

C like CBD

While the active ingredient THC has an intoxicating effect, cannabidiol (CBD) is not psychoactive. Since CBD is said to have a calming and anti-inflammatory effect, among other things, there has been a real hype about the active ingredient in recent years: there are tinctures, creams, capsules and oils. Research from the US National Sleep Foundation also indicates that CBD can help with sleep problems.

G like history

The cannabis plant has been used as a useful and medicinal plant for thousands of years – as early as 6000 years ago in China. For a long time, their intoxicating effect played no legal role in Europe. In 1929, the German Reichstag passed the Opium Act, which included controlling cannabis. Under the umbrella of the United Nations, an agreement was created in 1961 that forms the basis for most national legislation: the “Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs”. It places cannabis under the same restrictions as heroin. The Narcotics Act (BtMG) replaced the German Opium Act in 1971.

In Germany, the purchase and possession of 20 grams of cannabis from the age of 18 should in principle be exempt from punishment.

H for remedy

The use of cannabis for medicinal purposes originated in India and the Middle East. In the 20th century, medical use fell rapidly due to global bans. Since February 1, 1998, pure delta-9-THC has been available for prescription in Germany with restrictions, plant parts such as marijuana or hashish were exempt from this. Cannabis products for the manufacture of medicinal products have been marketable since 2011 and ready-made medicinal products containing cannabis require a prescription.

K for consumption

According to data from the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA) from the summer of 2022, the increase in cannabis use by young adults will continue. This not only applies to trying it out, but also to current and more intensive consumption. In 2021, about one in eight young men aged 18 to 25 reported using cannabis regularly. In 2008 it was every twentieth. In comparison: In 2021, just over half of this age group (50.8 percent) used the drug at least once, regardless of gender. Between 1973 and 1997, no more than 25 percent of all 18- to 25-year-olds had their own consumption experience. According to Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD), around four million adults in Germany are currently using cannabis.

P like plant

The cannabis plant contains over 60 cannabinoids, of which delta-9-THC is the most psychoactive. The most common cannabis products are marijuana (flowers and leaves) and hash (cannabis resin). Hash oil (concentrated extract) is used less frequently.

R like right

According to Lauterbach’s plans, the purchase and possession of 20 grams of cannabis should in future be generally exempt from punishment from the age of 18. The self-cultivation of up to two cannabis plants should therefore also be allowed. The amount of the intoxicating active ingredient THC in legalized cannabis may not exceed 15 percent. In Germany, the handling of narcotics is regulated by the Narcotics Act (BtMG). In it, cannabis is still classified as “not marketable” along with heroin and MDMA (“ecstasy”). Thus, any possession of cannabis and cannabis products (hashish, marijuana) is currently punishable. In the case of a small amount that is only intended for personal use, the public prosecutor’s office can refrain from criminal prosecution. The limits of how many grams an amount is classified as low vary by state.

S for addiction

The negatively experienced effects of consumption are primarily of a psychological nature; according to experts, long-term cannabis consumption is associated with psychological, social and physical risks. According to the current state of knowledge, it is assumed that serious brain damage, as is known from alcohol, is not caused. The risk of switching to other “harder” drugs has long been the subject of controversial discussion under the heading “gateway drug”, but it is no longer tenable: According to the German Search Aid (DHS), only a small proportion of cannabis users switch to harder drugs in the long term.

V for traffic

Anyone caught driving a car or motorbike under the influence of cannabis can expect to be classified as unfit to drive. Unlike alcohol, however, no limit values ​​​​are set for cannabis. Even the detection of a small amount of THC is enough for an administrative offence. It is irrelevant whether the consumption leads to an impairment of fitness to drive. Consequence: The driver’s license is usually confiscated.


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