Germany’s national election on September 26 could be a landmark moment for Europe’s cannabis industry.
As Chancellor Angela Merkel prepares to leave the stage, the European Union’s most influential country looks destined for a political shakeup.
The election will be defined by two major dynamics: the decline of Germany’s main centre-right party and the rise of the Greens.
There is widespread political support for reform of Germany’s cannabis laws and there’s every chance the next parliament could have a working majority for laws providing greater access.
Germany already has some limited medical cannabis access but there is an appetite to go further from some parties and voters, including on recreational use.
Despite theoretical majorities existing within the Bundestag, previous attempts to pass reform laws have failed – but it looks certain another will be back before long after the election.
The nature of Germany’s electoral system mean the election will be followed by complex coalition negotiations as it is extremely unlikely any party will win enough votes to govern alone.
This is where the legislative agenda for the next four years will be thrashed out, including any agreement to bring a vote on cannabis reform before parliament.
Cannabis industry executives around the world will be watching closely and know the rest of Europe is more likely to liberalise if Germany does.
In short, if you want to see Europe’s cannabis industry grow, you should care about this election.
Here’s everything you need to know about the main parties and where they stand on cannabis reform.
Candidate for Chancellor: Armin Laschet
Cannabis stance TL;DR version: Generally against radical reform – but not unmovable.
The Christian Democratic Union (and its smaller sister party, the Christian Social Union of Bavaria) has led the federal government since 2005 under Chancellor Angela Merkel.
She will retire in September and the party has chosen Armin Laschet as its candidate for the top job.
Merkel reached her high watermark in 2013 with 41.5% of the vote but the party has since been in electoral decline.
It’s generally agreed Laschet has had a rocky start to the campaign, although we was buoyed by a recent regional win in Saxony-Anhalt.
In 2017, the CDU-led government passed medical cannabis legislation but access is relatively restricted and expensive despite the fact GPs can prescribe.
Under Merkel, the party has been generally hostile to reform and voted against a bill to open up recreational use in 2020 but there have been signals from senior party figures over the years that the party could adopt a more liberal position.
Whether in government or opposition after coalition talks, the CDU will remain a major – if diminished player – and pro-reform parties might find they are pushing at a slightly more open door once Merkel isn’t there to hold it shut.
Alliance 90/The Greens
Candidate for Chancellor: Annalena Baerbock
Cannabis stance TL;DR version: On course to be Germany’s main pro-liberalisation party.
The Greens are widely expected to be the big winner in September’s election and have surged in the polls.
In 2017, the party won 8.9% of the vote, making it a significant but minor player in the Bundestag with 67 votes.
Under new leadership and benefiting from the decline of the country’s traditional centre-left party, the Greens are almost certainly going to wind up being the second largest party in the parliament – and could perform even better.
The party is in favour of the total legalisation of cannabis and would create a regulated market for medical and recreational use for adults.
Annalena Baerbock, 40, could become the world’s most significant green politician – and the cannabis industry is praying she pulls it off.
Candidate for Chancellor: Olaf Scholz
Cannabis stance TL;DR version: Cautiously pro-reform – and unlikely to be in any shape to dictate terms after the election.
The decline of the SPD has been one of the most dramatic in European politics in recent years.
For decades, the country’s traditional main centre-left party would regularly win more than 40% of the national vote and has led governments as recently as 2005.
But the party has haemoraged support, largely for its decision to back Merkel’s coalition governments from 2013 until today, and polled at just 20.5% in the last federal election.
SPD voters are looking to the Greens who are on course to replace it as the main centre-left alternative in the country.
The SPD is generally pro-reform but favours a more limited, cautious approach compared to the Greens.
That’s good news for the cannabis industry, as any coalition talks between the two parties after September 26 would see the SPD under pressure to move closer to the Greens.
Candidate for Chancellor: Christian Linder
Cannabis stance TL;DR version: Pro-liberalisation – but only if a legal market is a free one.
The Free Democratic Party, Germany’s centrist liberal party, could be on course to become the kingmakers after the September 26 election.
It’s been a good 12 months for the party, rising in the polls from 6% to 13% and looking certain to increase its presence in the Bundestag.
The FDP has been in government for much of its history and, since the 1980s, always in coalition with the CDU as a junior partner.
It’s been a turbulent period for the party. Last in government after the 2009 election, the party suffered a total collapse in 2013 before recovering in 2017 but rejecting the chance to go into a coalition with the CDU and the Greens.
The libertarian FDP is pro-reform and would expand medical cannabis access and legalise it for adult recreational use too.
But a strong showing by the FDP and the Greens would set up a showdown over how any future cannabis market is structured, a dispute which emerged in 2020 when the FDP abstained on a Green attempt to pass a liberalisation law because it contained too many regulations.
If the Greens turn to the FDP for support after September 26, they’ll find a party ready to listen but not necessarily willing to accept their version of reform.
Candidates for Chancellor: Alice Weidel and Tino Chrupalla
Cannabis stance TL;DR version: Against reform of any kind but very unlikely to be in government.
This is one of Germany’s most unpredictable elections in years but one thing looks pretty certain: Alternative for Germany will not be in any coalition government.
The right wing, anti-immigration party were the story of the 2017 election, moving from fringe outsiders to a significant player (12.6% of the vote) in just fours years against the backdrop of the EU’s migrant crisis.
While the party’s support has held stable in the lower double digits, so has the resolve of other party leaders to lock them out of government.
Armin Laschet has already said the CDU will not look to the AFD for support under his leadership and it is unthinkable that the Greens would.
That’s very good news for the cannabis industry as the AFD are opposed to reform and want to further regulate the medical cannabis industry.
Should a law come to parliament, they’re almost certain to vote against it – but given their pariah status in conventional German politics, they won’t be able to block any attempt to put the issue on the table during coalition talks.
Candidates for Chancellor: Janine Wissler and Dietmar Bartsch
Cannabis stance TL;DR version: You can count on their pro-reform votes but unlikely to be in government.
Die Linke – which translates as The Left – are the country’s far-left socialist party.
Since winnings its first seats in 2005, the party has been in permanent opposition despite attracting a respectable 11.9% of the vote in 2009.
The party is as pro-reform as the Greens and was the only group in the Bundestag to back their attempt to legalise cannabis in 2020.
Unlike the Greens and FDP, Die Linke are not on course to be major players in coalition talks, although could be asked to join a government as a junior partner in a three-way agreement.
Should a new law come before the Bundestag, their votes can be counted on – but they are unlikely to be in a position to set the legislative agenda when coalition talks get under way after the vote.
*All polling data is taken from Politico’s average of polls and is correct as of June 1.
European Medicines Agency gives cannabinoid medicine positive opinion
Tetra Bio-Pharma’s has received a positive opinion from the EMA’s Committee for Orphan Medicinal Products on its application for Orphan Drug Designation for QIXLEEF.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has given a positive opinion for Orphan Drug Designation (ODD) for Tetra Bio-Pharma’s QIXLEEF.
Cannabinoid-derived drug discovery company Tetra Bio-Pharma has received a positive opinion from the European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Orphan Medicinal Products (COMP) on its application for ODD for its investigational medicine QIXLEEF as a potential treatment for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), a chronic neuropathic pain condition.
The medicine is a botanical inhaled drug product with a fixed ratio of THC and CBD that provides fast-acting relief from pain, which the company says offers patients a viable, safer, and non-opioid option for pain management.
Tetra CEO and CRO, Dr Guy Chamberland, commented: “The positive opinion issued by the COMP is excellent news as Tetra continues to execute its regulatory strategy in Europe.
“An ODD brings several unique advantages, from a cost reduction in drug development, to an accelerated review process and market exclusivity for 10 years. Such strategy is cost and time-effective and allows the Company to easily gain market shares in a competitive free environment. If granted, this would represent QIXLEEF’s second ODD as a potential treatment for CRPS, in addition to the ODD granted by the US FDA in March 2018.
“We firmly believe that QIXLEEF will be a safe and effective medicine for pain management and an alternative to opioids.”
The positive opinion issued by the COMP will be sent to the European Commission, which is expected to grant the orphan designation within 30 days.
As the medicine will be intended to treat an orphan condition, clinical studies will be preformed with a significantly smaller number of patients and could be entitled to conditional approval through a decentralised procedure resulting in a single decision from the European Commission, valid in all EU Member States, which would shorten the time to market approval.
Cannabis regulation changes across Switzerland and Luxembourg
It is hoped that the changes will move consumers away from the black market.
This week both Switzerland and Luxembourg have announced changes to cannabis regulation.
Both Switzerland and Luxembourg have been signaling that legislation changes surrounding cannabis would be implemented but have delayed implementation up until this week, when Switzerland announced recreational and medical cannabis will be legalised, and Luxembourg announced it would allow home cultivation.
The moves have been catalysed by the desire to protect youth and move consumers away from the black market.
Changes in Switzerland
In Switzerland, the Social Security and Public Health Commission of the Council of States (CSSS-E) has said it is lifting the ban on cannabis and reviewing regulations relating to cannabis cultivation, production, trade and consumption.
The changes were approved by nine votes to two, with the CSSS-E supporting the initiative saying that it will be “regulating the cannabis market to better protect young people and consumers”, enabling legislative work to begin to create a regulated market. It aims to stem the black market and ensure that only cannabis which has been checked for quality is available.
The CSSS-E has said it is essential that the National Council takes into account the results of the pilot projects underway on the non-medical use of cannabis, citing that “the international context must also be taken into account.”
Changes in Luxemburg
Luxembourg announced plans to legalise recreational cannabis three years ago but has delayed on the matter. However, the country made the announcement on Friday (22 October) that citizens would be able to cultivate cannabis at home for personal use.
The deal struck in 2018 set the stage for legislation of recreational cannabis to be drawn up with the goal of impunity or legalisation regarding production in the country, as well consumption of cannabis for personal use, and for a national production and sales chain to be introduced under state control, with product quality assurance.
The deal said that the revenues from cannabis sales would be given priority into prevention, education and healthcare, and invested in the field of addiction.
The new announcement set out that citizens would be able to grow up to four plants, and that seed trade would be allowed, however, public consumption of cannabis remains illegal.
Cannabis investment company to see UK and Europe growth
US cannabis investment company Thought Leaders has acquired UK CBD brand mellow.
US cannabis investment company Thought Leaders has acquired UK CBD brand mellow which will see the company accelerate its growth across the UK, Europe and Asia markets.
The $13.25m acquisition of mellow by Thought Leaders will also see the launch of the mellow brand into the US and will include mellow.store, the end-to-end e-commerce services Grow by mellow, along with 50 per cent of the recently announced mellow Asia.
mellow co-founders, Neil Tunbridge and James Storie-Pugh will remain at mellow as company heads looking at new investment opportunities for the group.
Pugh, commented: “We are excited to make today’s announcement and proud of our new partnership with Thought Leaders in the US.
“It’s such an exhilarating time for CBD and these developments put mellow in the pole position to steer success for our e-tail platform and our end-to-end e-Commerce services as well as mellow Asia. As a result, mellow as a company will be at the forefront of rapid market growth globally.”
Tunbridge added: “The cannabis industry is here to stay and more and more people are starting to embrace what is likely to be the single biggest driver of the health and wellness market over the next few years.
“The World Health Organization has recognised that CBD may have the potential to help with health issues such as sleep, insomnia to anxiety and pain.
“A paper published in the Journal of Cannabis Research, outlined the key reasons why people are turning to CBD. Anxiety, sleep problems, stress, pain and health and wellbeing came out as the most common reasons. Even the sporting world can see the advantages of CBD. The world Anti-Doping Agency removed CBD from its list of banned substances in 2017, and the Tokyo Olympics allowed athletes to use CBD during the competition. Sports stars and athletes are often drawn to CBD for anxiety, pain relief and healing.”
CEO of Thought Leaders, Mark Singleton, said: “mellow is a key component of Thought Leaders global growth strategy. It’s well curated assortment of industry leading CBD brands and products, consumer focused education and industry leading technology are an exciting addition to our portfolio.
“The anticipated launch of the mellow US marketplace will bring a world class CBD assortment to US consumers, providing variety and quality with accelerated revenues. James and Neil’s experience and leadership in CBD and direct-to-consumer strategies are a welcome and valuable addition to the growing Thought Leaders team.”
- European Medicines Agency gives cannabinoid medicine positive opinion
- Cannabis regulation changes across Switzerland and Luxembourg
- Cannabis investment company to see UK and Europe growth
- How COVID has and will continue to change the cannabis market
- Christina DiArcangelo: dedicated to revolutionising patient care