Learning from the neighbors: Berlin to legalize cannabis coffee shops?

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Germany’s capital city may soon follow in the footsteps of its neighbor to the west. While the legalization of “cannabis coffee shops” in the Netherlands has been in effect for a while now, in Germany – and pretty much every other part of the world it’s still a no-go.

A popular cannabis coffee shop in Amsterdam

Germany’s legal structure 

Germany’s legal structure allows for the 16 individual states – or Bundesländer – to implement their own laws as long as they are not conflicting with policies or rulings of the federal government. With that, each state within the country has their own laws regarding cannabis. In Berlin, for example, you can possess up to 15 grams of marijuana legally. In other states, you’ll be in big trouble if you’ve got more than 6 grams.

In 2013, the neighborhood of Kreuzberg-Friedrichshein voted to allow cannabis coffee shops. Their proposal, however, was denied. But now, Berlin’s new progressive coalition government is looking to further loosen the reins for marijuana users by allowing cannabis coffee shops to legally sell throughout the city. This is the first time that the whole city has signified a uniform move forward towards legalization.

Don’t light up yet – there are still some barriers to conquer 

The government has prepared the application for a controlled cannabis delivery model and sent it the Federal Ministry of health. However, back in 2015, the more conservative decision-makers had turned down the proposal of Kreuzberg-Friedrichshein. But, since the documents take a long time to be processed, the laws may change with the upcoming federal elections in 2017.

The city of Bremen has also shown its interest in legalizing cannabis coffee shops. In April 2016, the new government announced the decriminalization of up to three cannabis plants as well as laid out their proposal for a coffeeshop-pilot program.

If both Bremen and Berlin do give the go ahead with issuing the license coffee shops, there may already be some open to the public as early as 2018 or 2019, with their activities both state-controlled and subject to scientific study.

But medical cannabis in Berlin is just on the horizon 

A new law on medical marijuana is expected to lead to a large increase in patient enrollment by Spring 2017. This could also mean great things for the potential coffee shops. If medical cultivation licenses are given out, this could mean that Berlin’s and Bremen’s coffeeshops would be supplied with legal, domestically grown medical-grade marijuana.

What could this mean for the rest of the EU?

While the Netherlands has already given the green stuff the green light or years, another major city, or cities, ending the prohibition could be just the nudge to create a domino effect for the rest of Europe. The US has already legalized recreational marijuana in some states, and with more world-famous cities joining the list, we may see a weed-legal continent in our lifetime!

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