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 in Germany.

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.

As summarized in more detail below with respect to “Recreational use”, current legislative plans of the German government provide for the creation of a “Medical Cannabis Act” (“Medizinal-Cannabisgesetz”) which will transfer the provisions regarding medical cannabis to a separate Act. 

Recreational use

In Germany, it is currently strictly prohibited to produce, import or sell recreational cannabis but change is on its way.  

The current governing coalition in Germany has agreed to introduce a "controlled distribution of cannabis to adults for consumption purposes in licensed shops". On 26 October 2022, the German Federal Government published a key issues paper on the introduction of the controlled distribution of cannabis for recreational use, that was again updated and published on 12 April 2023. At the end of April (28 April 2023), the Ministry of Health, which is in charge of the project, submitted a draft bill for departmental review with the Federal Government.  

The legalisation must comply with applicable international and European law, as Germany is a party to the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961). In the UN Single Convention, member states explicitly commit to prohibiting, among other things, the cultivation and trafficking of cannabis for non-medical or scientific purposes. European law also refers to the UN Single Convention. The legalisation must also be in compliance with the Schengen Convention (CISA) and EU Council Framework Decision 2004/757/JHA v. 25.10.04. The German government has evaluated the risks under international and EU law and incorporated them so that – according to their assessment – legislative plans should be permissible. 

On 6 July 2023, the federal government officially published the announced draft law (“Entwurf eines Gesetzes zum kontrollierten Umgang mit Cannabis und zur Änderung weiterer Vorschriften – ‘Cannabisgesetz’”, EN: “Draft Law on the Controlled Use of Cannabis and on the Amendment of Other Provisions – ’Cannabis Act’”), which was approved by the federal cabinet on 16 August 2023. 

Besides the creation of a “Medical Cannabis Act” and changes to relevant other provisions, the draft bill provides for the creation of a “Cannabis Cultivation Act” (“Cannabisanbaugesetz”). This Act, inter alia, contains the following aspects: classification, supply chain, import and export (à entirely prohibited), home cultivation of cannabis, advertisement (à entirely prohibited) and exclusively controlled dispensing for payment via cultivation associations (so-called "Anbauvereinigungen") only to their members. Dispatch and distance selling of cannabis, as well as internet trade in cannabis, will be prohibited. Furthermore, only pure cannabis can be dispensed, synthetic cannabinoids as well as combined products will be prohibited. Lastly, the draft bill contains the criminal and administrative sanctions for violation of the stipulated Cannabis provisions. 

Following the cabinet decision, the German government introduced the bill into the parliamentary legislative process. It is expected that the bill will be debated in the Bundestag and Bundesrat within fall 2023, before being passed by the Bundestag at best by the end of 2023. Entry into force is planned for the beginning of 2024. From then on, adults will be able to legally consume Cannabis in Germany as stipulated in the new Act. 

In a second step, it is planned to also legalize the commercial supply of Cannabis for recreational use but the German government has decided to prioritize the general legislation for now. 

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, currently, 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. However, the current draft for the new Cannabis legislations will most likely also lead to changes of the German Narcotics Act. 

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 still 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. 


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. Currently, EFSA (The European Food Safety Authority) has 19 applications to approve CBD as a Novel Food. In June 2022, EFSA last indicated in a statement that the assessments on CBD will be suspended until new data on safety is available. So far, there have been no new developments in this regard.


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. Also, these strict requirements will most likely change once the new legislation has been enacted.


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 Narcotics Law. However, this will most likely change once the new legislation has been enacted.


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 was harvested in the summer of 2021. Currently, there are three licensed cultivators of medicinal cannabis in Germany: Aphria RX GmbH, Aurora Produktions GmbH and Demecan GmbH. 

The new German Government is planning a liberalisation of cannabis for recreational use and published a draft bill as the first legislative step at the beginning of July 2023, which was approved by the federal cabinet in August 2023 on the introduction of the controlled distribution of cannabis for recreational use (see above summary under "recreational use" for the current legislative developments).  

The new law is also intended to amend the provisions for medicinal cannabis. The regulations on medical cannabis will be transferred from the Narcotics Act to a specific law., the Medicinal Cannabis Act (“Medizinal-Cannabisgesetz”) 

The first health insurance company already signed a contract with the German Society for Pain Medicine (DGS) to facilitate the provision of medical cannabis, especially in pain therapy. There are also rebate contracts between pharmaceutical wholesalers of medicinal cannabis and public health insurers. 


Portrait ofJörg Lips
Dr. Jörg Lips
Portrait ofJörn Witt
Dr. Jörn Witt, LL.M. (University of London)
Portrait ofPhiline-Luise Pulst
Dr. Philine-Luise Pulst, LL.M. (University of Cape Town)
Portrait ofJeannine Pettersson
Jeannine Pettersson
Senior Associate
Justus Graf