After having an online version in 2020 due to Covid19 restrictions, Hanfparade (hemp parade) returned to the streets of Berlin on 14th of August 2021. The biggest cannabis demonstration in Germany has been on-going since 1997, and this year around 5000 people gathered to raise their voices, and sound systems, to demand an end to the 50 year prohibition of cannabis in Germany. As this year’s slogan stated – Zeit für Emanzipation – it is time to emancipate the cannabis plant, and Germany´s upcoming election at the end of September could be a game changer.
While the upcoming election could bring a change on the national level, cannabis reform could also take place on a more local level. Different cities in Germany, Berlin included, have tried to pass local cannabis experiments but so far they have been blocked by the federal government. For instance, in 2015, a district in Berlin called Friedrichschain-Kreuzberg, applied for an exemption from the Federal Institute for Medicine and Medicinal Produce (Bundesinstitut für Arzneimittel und Medizinprodukte – BfArM) to initiate four ´specialist cannabis shops´. Unfortunately BfArM rejected the plan, and the appeal, arguing that it was not in line with the national narcotics law (the BtMG, see Blickman & Sandwell 2019, p. 13).
Nowadays Friedrichschain area does have several specialized hemp/CBD shops, and at least during Hanfparade the local police seemed to be unbothered by people smoking joints on the streets. So cannabis reform is moving ahead from the ´bottom up´ while we wait for the upcoming national election results.
One of the participants in this year’s Hanfparade was Arved, from an organization called Berlin loves weed. Taking the recent New York City cannabis reform bill as the ideal model to adapt to the local situation in Germany, the organization had acquired an authentic NYC taxi which lead the parade as the first vehicle in the long line of trucks, most of which were equipped by powerful sound systems. Taxi2legalisation as the car project is called, aims to raise awareness of the upcoming German election as well as the benefits of cannabis legalization especially by providing information of the NYC cannabis bill and interviewing people inside the taxi about cannabis (called 10 questions about cannabis).
While still waiting to become fully effective, the NYC bill for instance allows New Yorkers who are 21 years and older to grow up to six plants in their home for personal use (3 mature plants and 3 immature plants) so it does not set a gram limit for homegrown plants. The limit of cannabis New Yorkers are allowed to buy and possess, however, is set to three ounces of cannabis flower (about 85 grams) and making concentrates from home grown cannabis is not allowed.
When asked to make a prediction of the upcoming election, Arved said:
“With this election, the new-regulation of Cannabis in Germany could become reality. The Green Party has a draft law ready. It needs some adjustments but has a lot of details covered already. The “Linke” left-wing party is pro-legalization, as well as the Free Democrats. Surprisingly, the Social Democrats (one of the two established parties) has changed positions and is not pro but not against. The Christian Democrats, who are currently the majority, have always blocked the way for cannabis…but they are in a historic low and will be ready to negotiate.”
Ferdinand Siebert, who has worked at Berlin´s Hanf museum since 2014, located next to Rote Rathaus, close by where Hanfparade started and ended, had a bit less optimistic prediction of the upcoming election and its impact on cannabis policy in Germany:
“The most likely outcome is a government that includes the Christian conservative party, which will use the issue of cannabis legalization to show its voters that they have a strong ‘law and order’ stance and will not step down to the liberals. As such, any change in the legal status of recreational cannabis production and selling will be highly unlikely. “
Taxi2legalisation leading the way with vans with sound systems following suit.
Ferdinand, who was not speaking on behalf of the Hanf museum, also speculated that the change would happen more locally:
“What will come in the next years, maybe even in the next legislative period, is that possession of small amounts of cannabis will be demoted to a petty crime. This allows police to not prosecute it (right now, it is a crime and as such has to be prosecuted by police) and also allows a cheaper kind of police, the “Ordnungsamt” (handhaving in Dutch) to prosecute it. The fines from a petty crime also go to the State Government, not the Federal Government. This will enable some states to increase prosecution of cannabis users, and other states to lower their pressure on stoners.”
In addition to lowering the criminal status of cannabis use, which would give local authorities more flexibility in their approach, the federal government could allow local experimentation to take place, as stated by Ferdinand:
“If the German people, and the cannabis consumers in particular get very lucky, the federal government might put into place a legal framework which will allow individual states to have research projects on giving out cannabis for recreational consumption.”
Whatever the election results will be, after 50 years of prohibition it has become more clearer than ever that the current system does not work. As the authors from the Transnational Institute write in their drug policy briefing, Cannabis in the city: Bottom-up policy reform for cannabis (Blickman & Sandwell 2019):
“The probative model has failed to show any sustained impact in reducing the market, while imposing heavy burdens on criminal justice systems; producing profoundly negative social and public health impacts; and creating criminal markets supporting organized crime, violence and corruption. “
It is time for emancipation.
By Aleksi Hupli
Legalize NL would like to thank Azarius Smartshop for financial support during Hanfparade!
Links & references:
Blickman, T. & K. Sandwell (2019) Cannabis in the City: Bottom-up policy reform for cannabis regulation. Transnational Institute, TNI. https://www.tni.org/en/publication/cannabis-in-the-city-bottom-up-policy-reform