Repeated attacks on both the Chancellor and the Traffic Light Coalition have been launched by the CSU-affiliated Bavarian Health Minister and his allies in the Bundestag over the past several weeks. What does this mean for recreational cannabis reform this fall?
Could Germany’s plans to legalize recreational cannabis be slowed down, or even derailed? That clearly, is the intent of several prominent members of the CDU/CSU party – particularly it seems if they are from Bavaria.
An overview of rolling events
In late August, the CSU/CDU affiliated health minister of Bavaria, Klaus Holetschek, challenged the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz (SPD) on his statements to a Magdeburg citizens meeting about the legalization of cannabis. Namely, even though, in the words of the Chancellor, by using cannabis, there were negative implications, the government would continue on its promised path, to legalize recreational use of cannabis even though some “people suffer psychological damage” and “ruin their lives” by doing so. Scholz also talked about the fact that the federal government would move forward, but only with a focus on harm reduction.
Last week, the tempo dramatically increased. Namely, Holetschek posted a press release on the official website of the Bavarian state government calling for the immediate termination of the legalization of cannabis by the federal government because it violated EU law. He quoted as his source, a report just issued by Bundestag lawyers who were commissioned to do a legal analysis of legalization by none other than Stephan Pilsinger, a CSU-affiliated member of the Bundestag who, not coincidentally, also sits on the Health Committee. The lawyers’ report, written by the Scientific Service of the Bundestag, states that moving forward on recreational reform will violate EU law. This despite the formation of a multilateral group discussion between Germany, Luxembourg, and Malta to discuss how to do so on both a sovereign as well as a regional level.
Holetschek, along with his compatriots in the Bavarian CSU have also stated that they recognize that cannabis has medical efficacy, but since patients can supposedly access the drug legally for medical use, they see no reason to reform any more cannabis laws.
Cannabis, the Gateway Drug to “Crystal Mett”
Beyond this, CSU leader Markus Söder (also from Bavaria with a tenure in politics that includes being the Prime Minister of the State) made a further, albeit short-lived broadside screed about the plans to legalize cannabis this past weekend at a party conference. Namely, he claimed that the legalization of cannabis would be a legislative “gateway” to normalizing other drugs, like cocaine and “crystal mett.” What he was actually referring to was a Green Party initiative, already rejected by the coalition government, to legalize “party” drugs like cocaine, ecstasy, and amphetamines (but not the meth kind).
His mispronunciation of the worth meth as “mett” however, caused a spectacular backlash on Twitter, initiated by current health minister Karl Lauterbach, who joked that “Despite the scathing criticism from Markus Söder that the legalization of cannabis promotes the use of Crystal-Mett, we will not slow down on the same. At least vegetarians will remain safe.”
The play on words was picked up by other Twitter users, who posted creative pictures of “meat” drug use – including this one showing an addict heating the meat spread in a spoon and injecting it into his arm, with the slogan, “This is the really hard stuff.”
In the interim, a delegation of the current federal Bundestag health committee, including cross-party delegates from the SPD, CSU, FDP, Der Linke, and even the solidly anti-cannabis, right wing AfD landed in North America for a week-long investigation of how cannabis legalization works in both Canada and California.
Eight Cannabis Associations in Germany Take Stand on Patient Access
The growing political fight at a federal level is not going unnoticed on the ground here. In fact, business, medical and advocacy groups just issued a statement last week demanding that the plight of patients is not forgotten as the country moves towards recreational reform. This on top of the German Association of Pain Medicine inking a new contract with AOK to streamline cannabis approvals in a unique trial in one German state (so far).
The Working Group of the International Association of Cannabis as Medicine, the Association of German Cannabis Patients, the Cannabis Industry Association, the Federal Association of Pharmaceutical Cannabinoid Companies, the German Medical Cannabis Society, the Patients’ Association Self Help Network for Cannabis Medicine, the Association of Cannabis Supplying Pharmacies and the Science Network of Cannabinoids in Medicine issued a joint statement last week. The bottom line, beyond their specific demands, is that the situation as is “can’t stay the way it is.”
The associations further said that the following issues need to be rectified.
- All legitimate cannabis patients need to be reimbursed by insurers.
- Physicians need to have the final say in prescribing cannabis (not the insurers or the regional approvers known as the MDK).
- Social inequities in who gets cannabis and who does not need to be redressed
- The legal framework for medical cannabis needs to be uniform throughout the country – and not based on state-by-state decisions
- The supply of cannabis to patients must be of high quality and prioritized
- Clinical research must be financially supported
- The basics of the endocannabinoid system and the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids must be better integrated into the medical and pharmaceutical education system.
- The current system, which is rejecting about 40% of all applications out of hand must be revised – and in such a way to protect prescribing doctors from being held responsible for the costs of the medicine.