Cannabis law and legislation in Germany

Medical use

The legalisation of cannabis for medical use took place in 2017. It is therefore permitted to grow, sell and import cannabis for medical use.

Pursuant to the German Narcotics Act an authorisation is necessary for all forms of business. Furthermore, when medicinal cannabis is imported from outside the EU, an import authorisation pursuant to the German Medicinal Product Act
is necessary. The cultivation is managed by means of tender process.

Patients can have access to medical cannabis in the form of dried blossoms or extracts only on prescription and only for serious illness, If: (i) a generally accepted standard therapy (a) does not exist, or (b) in particular cases does not apply according to the justified assessment of the treating physician, considering expected side effects and the disease status of the insured patient; or (ii) there is a reasonable possibility that the medical cannabis will have a positive effect on the disease process or on serious symptoms.

If these requirements are fulfilled, health insurers must reimburse the costs for cannabis therapy. Violation of the German Narcotics act due to illegal cultivation, import, possession or promotion can be a crime and there is a risk of severe criminal sanctions (imprisonment for up to five years or a fine).

Recreational use

In Germany it is strictly forbidden to produce, import or sell recreational cannabis.

Industrial use

The cultivation of industrial cannabis by agricultural undertakings does not require authorisation when certified seeds of the varieties listed in Article 9 of Regulation (EU) No. 639/2014 are used or the THC content is below 0.2%; in this case only a notification to the authorities is necessary.

Apart from cultivation, all other uses of industrial cannabis require an authorisation pursuant to the German Narcotics Act, except when certified seeds of the varieties listed in Article 9 of Regulation (EU) No. 639/2014 are used or the THC is below 0.2%, and it is used for scientific or commercial purposes only and an abuse for intoxication purposes is excluded. Commercial purposes are allowed in case the cannabis is processed and becomes a harmless product that cannot be used for drug abuse.

CBD as a pure substance is not defined as a narcotic pursuant to the German Narcotics Act. However, products with CBD have recently been considered to be illegal by prosecutors and criminal courts in the same way as industrial hemp, i.e. in particular if they contain more than 0.2% THC, but oftentimes also below that threshold claiming that CBD products at the end consumer level are not used for scientific or commercial purposes only and may lead to an abuse for intoxication purposes. It is currently uncertain whether German courts will adapt this case law in light of the ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on November 19, 2020 (C-663/18), according to which CBD extracts obtained from the whole cannabis sativa plant are not considered narcotics.

Food

CBD Food is essentially not yet marketable in Germany. Since the European Commission added cannabinoids to the EU Novel Food Catalogue in January 2019, there was great uncertainty in the German market as to how German authorities will evaluate food and food supplements with CBD. In various judgements since 2019, the German Administrative Courts have shed some light on the until then confusing legal situation. According to the courts, food and food supplements containing CBD components are Novel Foods and are therefore only marketable in cases where they are authorised by the European Commission.

Cosmetics

Cosmetics with CBD are marketable in Germany if they are in accordance with the requirements of Regulation (EC) No 1223/2009 on cosmetic products. Therefore, the cosmetic product may not contain narcotics as listed in Table I and II of the UN Single Convention on narcotic drugs (1961). 

Furthermore, cosmetics with CBD must comply with the above stated requirements of German Narcotics Law. Provided the cosmetic product usually cannot be ingested, German authorities generally agree that cosmetics containing less than 0.2% THC are “harmless” products that cannot be misused for intoxicating purposes.

Feed

Feed with CBD is marketable if done so in accordance with the provision of the European Feed Law. In particular, the CBD content in the product may only derive from hemp oil as listed in the catalogue of feed material (Commission Regulation (EU) 2017/2017).

Furthermore, feed with CBD must also comply with the above stated requirements of German 

Patentability

There is no general prohibition on patenting cannabis- based products, however no patents can be granted for inventions if their commercial exploitation would be contrary to “public order” or morality.

Latest developments

The first medicinal cannabis from cultivations in Germany is expected to be available in the first half of 2021.

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Dr. Jörg Lips
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Dr. Jörn Witt, LL.M. (University of London)
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