The ghosts of prohibition hang over almost every positive cannabis reform development that has happened this year – but it is clear that the discussion about legalization in Germany is opening both a regional and international debate about how to move forward
In the theme of the day, let’s examine cannabis reform developments globally, against the symbolism of October 31 on many parts of the planet.
The Ghouls and Ghosts
There are clearly many ghosts hanging out to haunt the discussion of overall reform this year. This includes in every jurisdiction where there are actually proposals to go backwards on drug scheduling (the UK). It also includes those who insist that the EU will dismiss the intentions of at this point multiple states for a legal point of order already on shaky ground given the direction and intentions of the UN of late.
In the meantime, as academic debate rages, conservative forces think of anything possible to throw up in the last-ditch attempt to hold the fort, and markets take hold in new places (Thailand), there are still people who are paying the price for such delays viscerally.
It may be remotely comforting, for example, to the men now facing suspended sentences in the aftermath of the latest German federal judicial decision on hemp flower, that change is coming soon, and their suspended sentences will be dismissed.
That said, there are too many people caught up in the legal system for any government to ignore the problem, if not from the drug perspective than the criminal justice and equity one.
At a time when legislative reform is very much on the move and in many countries, one of the most important aspects of this is literally, the carve outs that come with such formalization if not commodification of, an industry. As almost every government so far has had to address, legislation can often have unintended consequences. See the German cultivation bid, for starters. In Germany right now, the carve outs on everything from personal possession to the removal of “narcotic” status are being weighed against how such a move will gel at the EU level. This is a bit of disingenuous drama, given the fact that Deutschland is far from alone in proceeding on such a path within the union. For this reason, such naysaying is likely to be for naught. Regardless, it is good for a review of current international law and where European countries will carve out exceptions to their own Narcotics Laws (for starters).
Legalization will create other strange developments too. One of the best examples of this so far (in the US) is the rise of Delta 8. The legal issues involved in its wide justification have always been ridiculous. In Europe it is hard to see how such a substance could be adopted widely, since its extraction and transformation process most certainly falls within the realm of novel food.
Regardless, while Delta 8 may not become a “thing” as it has in the US after the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, there will inevitably be areas where interpretation falls short of intent, or vice versa. No matter what is released, in whatever country, expect legal challenges as well as setbacks. See the most recent German federal decision on hemp flower at 0.2% THC.
“Loophole” law exceptions will become also far less common as the entire debate normalizes.
That Germany has, despite several zig zags, including deliberately timed leaks and white papers, been more or less on a straight path towards full recreational reform, and further will not be deterred by the “international implications” of the same is the seasonal treat to beat all others, no matter how its wrapped. The reality is that those who are now claiming that this whole conversation is going to potentially go overboard at the EU level are forgetting that it is not just Germany now posing such questions. If it were only Germany, that would be one thing. However, it is clearly at least two more (Malta and Luxembourg) plus the Czech Republic. Then there is Portugal and Italy, even if Spain and France continue to lag behind. And, despite the reluctance of everyone in the room to bring this up, Holland, now struggling with implementation of its own form of regulated production bound for most coffee shops outside of Amsterdam and other larger cities.
It is, of course, possible to overindulge in speculation as much as seasonal candy about some of the particulars, including when it will happen, when it will go into force, what will be included, and when, and how will the market be sourced.
All fun discussions to follow. The most important thing, however, that is impossible to ever be sick of is that all is in the works – even if it appears that clouds, yet again, dot the horizon.