Will Germany Follow the American Example in Issuing Pardons for Cannabis “Crimes?”

The American Justice Department has just issued Cannabis Pardon Certificates. Will Germany follow suit after recreational cannabis reform – and when?

The American Justice Department has just launched an online application form for people who qualify under the Biden Administration’s mass marijuana pardon (for federal non-violent cannabis offenses). The administration issued a pardon proclaimation in October for those who had been convicted under both federal law and in the District of Columbia.

Advocates have further pushed the administration to provide an application for a certificate for those affected to show when necessary (especially in cases where people need the same to obtain both jobs and housing).

While this step is far from enough – as most people in jail for cannabis “crimes” were convicted under state law, it is certainly a good step in the right direction.

Given this development, the question remains, what will Germany do?

Cannabis Offenses Are All Federal in Germany

The first reason that such a pardon program is necessary in Germany right now is that all cannabis offenses are dealt with under federal rather than state law. The difference in sentencing tends to vary by German state, but the statute under which cannabis possession is prosecuted is federal, not state.

The second reason is that since federal medical reform in 2017, a significant number of people now facing prosecution for cannabis possession or small cultivation are patients who cannot obtain insurance approval, or they do not receive enough cannabis via their doctor to properly treat their condition.

Beyond this, there are also a significant number of CBD sellers who are also facing similar problems, even though on a European level, CBD has been designated with a non-narcotic designation.

Finally, after recreational reform, there will need to be a program to expunge the records of those who have previously convicted of possession and small scale growing.

The damage to individuals of failing to do so is immense – and unfair.

A Minefield of Forms

There is a reality of life in Germany that everyone who lives here must face – and that is that Germany is a form filled bureaucracy that is often very hard to navigate, even for those who are born here.

In a welfare state, there is further little reason or logic to continue to punish people who have been ahead of the curve – especially because such convictions absolutely can affect both employment and housing.

Legislators need to start planning now to incorporate a similar kind of amnesty program as recreational reform passes. And further make access easy – including online.

While the implications in Europe for casual drug use (or of the medical kind) have long been less draconian than in the United States, it is overdue that legislators, on the eve of full cannabis legalization take the initiative from the start.

Changing the BtMG to make allowances for cannabis reform

The German Narcotics Act, also known as the BtMG (or Gesetz über den Verkehr mit Betäubungsmitteln) needs an update when it comes to cannabis. Namely, patients who are in possession of cannabis or grow it when their insurance companies refuse coverage are clearly in need of a carve out provision in the law to protect them from criminal charges for “illegal” possession of narcotics. This is even more true when they have prescriptions and written letters from doctors.

Beyond this, the law needs to be updated to bring German criminal code into compliance with European law – something that so far has not happened in the courts even with CBD.

Bottom line? The times they are a’changing just about everywhere – and when it comes to cannabis there is a lot that needs to be updated to keep federal regulations in line with regional law – as well as new legislation now clearly in the offing to legalize the weed.


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