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.