Germany’s plans to legalise recreational cannabis have hit a roadblock after a legal analysis suggested the move could contravene European rules.

The 2021 election saw the Social Democratic Party, the Free Democratic Party and the Greens form a ‘traffic light’ coalition under chancellor Olaf Scholz and announce cannabis would be regulated and sold for adult use in licensed shops.

In May 2022, justice minister Marco Buschmann said he was optimistic a law could be passed by next spring with “the first legal joint” sold in 2023.

However, The Guardian reports fears that a badly crafted law could be thrown out by the European court of justice are giving the government pause for thought.

This week, a leaked legal analysis from the German parliament’s research service warned the move would contravene European regulations.

Despite the expert opinion being commissioned by the conservative Christian Democratic Union, which opposes legalisation, some of the concerns are shared in government circles.

One official said: “There is a degree of caution about promises of a breakthrough before the end of the year. The complexity… is starting to sink in, and there’s a sharper awareness of the risks involved.”

Previous debates around legalisation focused on the United Nations 1961 single convention on narcotic drugs as the main obstacle, but the government now sees various European laws as the bigger challenge, according to sources. 

One potential hurdle is the 2004 Council of the European Union decision requiring member states to ensure that the sale of drugs, including cannabis, are “punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal penalties”.

And the 1985 Schengen agreement, which largely abolished internal border checks for members, also obliges signatories to stop the illegal export, sale and supply of “narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, including cannabis”.

While the coalition remains on track to pass a law this term, sources said it was watching Luxembourg closely, where the government proposed a law this summer to legalise recreational use in private, but continue to ban it in public.

That could be one way of legalising the drug while minimising the risk of breaking European laws.

Currently, it is illegal for Australian firms to export to adult-use markets, but industry watchers have identified Germany as a big opportunity if the situation changes.

Prior to launching Cannabiz, Martin was co-founder and CEO of Asia-Pac’s leading B2B media and marketing information brand Mumbrella, overseeing its sale to Diversified Communications in 2017. A journalist...

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