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5 facts about cannabis laws in Germany

Cannabis is illegal in Germany, but there are exceptions to the rule. DW looks at what’s legal and what isn’t when it comes to the private consumption of pot — plus, who says it’s high time to legalize marijuana?

Germany’s drug laws have evolved over the past 30 years, with punishments becoming more severe, and, paradoxically, the definition of “drug offender” becoming more pliable.

The private consumption of cannabis, for example, is commonly known to be relatively relaxed. A police officer stops someone on the street for smoking a joint, and — as many people during lazy summer months can confirm — it will probably be taken away without further repercussions.

Here’s a look at the status of cannabis in German law and politics in five key points.

1. Cannabis is illegal

Germany’s Narcotics Act classifies cannabis as an Appendix III drug: neither too dangerous to market, nor too dangerous to prescribe. LSD and heroin fall, by contrast, under Appendix I — not to be distributed for any reason, while Appendix II narcotics, such as cocaine, may not be prescribed.

Advocates of legalization want to see Germany open pot boutiques similar to those popping up in California

The punishment for drug possession or selling drugs varies depending on the circumstances and can range from a fine of up to €25,000 ($30,000) to two years in prison for offenders over the age of 21.

Although cannabis falls under a comparatively less serious category of drugs, the law prohibits the growing, sale and distribution of it due to its effect on the brain, particularly regarding addiction.

The law is less clear, however, on criminal prosecution for the consumption of cannabis.

2. Cannabis loopholes

Three little words have eased prohibition of cannabis considerably since the early 1990s: “a small amount.” As in, a person in possession of only “a small amount” of a drug, according to Paragraph 31 of the 1992 reform of the Narcotics Law can avoid prosecution.

The public prosecutor may drop a case if the offender’s guilt “can be seen as minimal, if there is no public interest in pursuing criminal prosecution and if the offender has only for his or her own use grown, produced, imported, exported, transported or acquired, or is in any other manner in possession of a small amount of the narcotic.”

However, federal law does not define what that small amount is. The Supreme Court set the limit at 7.5 g of the mind-altering ingredient in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). But, ultimately, the states have the final say. While most allow for possession of up to 6 grams (0.2 ounces), some, like North-Rhine Westphalia allow for up to 10 grams. Berlin, a city-state, shows flexibility for up to 15 grams.

3. Number of pot smokers on the rise

While reliable statistics on pot smoking remain elusive, several surveys in recent years point to an overall rise in the number of people getting high.

In 2014, the Federal Center for Health Education interviewed some 7,000 Germans ages 12 to 25 about their pot habits. It found that nearly 18 percent of 18 to 25-year-olds surveyed had smoked pot at least once over the past year, up from 11.6 percent in 2008. Roughly 5 percent reported using the drug regularly.

Despite tough punishments for possession of narcotics, lighting up a joint is too minor an offense for criminal prosecution

Among 18 to 25-year-olds, consumption rose among men from almost 15 percent to 24 percent and among women from 8 percent to 11 percent between 2008 and 2015.

Some 8 percent of teens aged 12 to 17 reported they had smoked at least once over the past year. The study found that more than 2 percent used the drug regularly.

4. Medical marijuana is legal

Medical marijuana became legal in March 2017. Prior to the law’s passage, an estimated 1,000 patients across the country had received special permission to use the drug for medical treatment.

According to the pharmaceutical publication Deutsche Apotheker Zeitung, the number of patients receiving prescriptions has risen steadily since last year. Drug stores filled over 5,000 orders in the first four months of the year, with June booking some 2,213 prescriptions.

Pharmacists prepared an estimated 10,600 remedies containing cannabis or unprocessed cannabis flowers. A further 12,500 finished medical products containing cannabis or cannabis extract were distributed.

Despite the statistics available on prescriptions, the newspaper noted that it was not possible to assess how many people had benefited from the law.

5. Who wants to legalize cannabis?

With consumption on the rise and Germany’s law enforcement needed for more pressing security issues, politicians favoring decriminalization are taking aim at cannabis prohibition once again.

The neoliberal FDP joined forces in February with both the Green Party and the Left Party to call attention back to what it says is an outdated and dangerous attitude toward marijuana.

Pointing to the widespread use of the drug — by at least 4 million Germans, says the FDP — the trio want the government to legalize regulation of cannabis for private consumption. This, they say, would protect adult consumers from a product laced with other harmful chemicals.

FDP, Green and Left lawmakers want to bring the legalization debate back to parliament

They also argue that buying pot on the black market not only stigmatizes ordinary citizens — preventing them from seeking help if they need it — but also increases the odds that they will buy harder drugs. Introducing cannabis shops would eliminate this risk and prevent minors from buying pot.

Angela Merkel’s CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, remain stark opponents of legalizing, as does the far-right populist AfD. The only party still on the fence is the center-left Social Democrats, who have expressed openness to new ideas.

Mother Nature’s drug lab

Cannabis – smoke it or wear it

The cannabis plant contains the psychoactive substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It makes people feel euphoric and relaxed and can also alleviate pain. The flowers of infertilized female plants contain particularly high amounts of THC, that’s why they are taken for producing marihuana. Some cannabis species do not contain any THC at all and are grown for fiber production.

Mother Nature’s drug lab

Better than aspirin

Opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) produces – you guessed it – opium. To harvest it, you simply incise the capsules and let the white latex exude and dry. Opium contains high amounts of morphine, the strongest existing pain medication. A chemical variation of morphine provides the semi-synthetic drug heroin.

Mother Nature’s drug lab

Fancy a magic mushroom?

Mushrooms are chemical artists – some of them even produce psychoactive substances. Among them: this grey-coloured Pluteus salicinus. It grows on wood and contains psilocybin, which causes visual and mental hallucinations similar to LSD. Side effects are nausea and panic attacks.

Mother Nature’s drug lab

Drug snack to go

Leaves of the coca plant harbour chemical compounds similar to cocaine. They alleviate pain and act as stimulants. In many countries in Latin America, chewing on raw coca leaves is quite common. It helps tourists deal better with altitude sickness, too. By fermenting and drying the leaves and processing them chemically, cocaine is produced.

Mother Nature’s drug lab

Beautiful poisonous flowers

Angel’s trumpets are beautiful to look at but you should refrain from tasting them. All parts of the plant contain alkaloids – chemical compounds with strong effects on the human body. When you eat or smoke the plant, your heart rate will increase and you will start to hallucinate. As with all natural drugs, finding the right dosage is difficult. Deadly accidents occur quite often.

Mother Nature’s drug lab

Bummer with thornapple

On the internet, poisonous Datura plants – also known as thornapples – are advertised as natural drugs as well. Really not a good idea: The plant induces strong hallucinations, sometimes with a complete loss of reality. People tend to hurt themselves severely under its influence.

Mother Nature’s drug lab

Hawaiian Babies

Argyreia nervosa is native to Asia, even though the plant is called Hawaiian baby woodrose. The seeds of this climbing vine contain ergine, a compound similar to LSD. It causes colourful visions and euphoria but also nausea, prickling and psychoses. Overdosing can happen easily as one seed alone already has a strong effect.

Mother Nature’s drug lab

Ecstasy with cactus

The peyote cactus in Mexico and Texas is full of mescaline, a hallucinogenic compound that is illegal under the international Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Mescaline alters thinking processes and one’s sense of time and self-awareness. The cactus is cut into pieces and eaten or boiled into a tea. The cactus species is now listed on the Red List as vulnerable.

Mother Nature’s drug lab

Beware of nutmeg

Nutmeg in high amounts can act as a drug, since it contains the hallucinogenic compound myristicin. But don’t worry: you’ll never reach the necessary dosage if you only use nutmeg as a spice. Getting high on nutmeg seems a bad idea anyway, as side effects include headaches, nausea and diarrhea.

Mother Nature’s drug lab

Psychedelic leaves?

Yes, it’s true: the evergreen kratom tree (Mitragyna speciosa), native to Southeast Asia, incorporates the opioid-like compound mitragynine into its leaves. In traditional medicine, the leaves are chewed to relieve pain, increase appetite and treat diarrhea. But they can also be used to mix drug cocktails.

Mother Nature’s drug lab

One of nature’s most dangerous killers

The tobacco plant produces poisonous and addictive chemicals, such as nicotine and other alkaloids, and harbours them inside its leaves. With this poisonous cocktail, the plant tries to ward off animals that might want to eat it. When the leaves are dried and smoked, the chemicals enter the human body – together with many cancerous substances generated by burning tabacco.

Author: Brigitte Osterath

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Cannabis is illegal in Germany, but there are exceptions to the rule. DW looks at what's legal and what isn't when it comes to the private consumption of pot — plus, who says it's high time to legalize marijuana?

How to buy weed in Berlin

This guest article was published for information purposes only.

While Berlin is a generally marijuana-friendly city, as of 2017, it is illegal to buy cannabis in Germany unless you have a prescription. Nonetheless, smoking pot in the German capital is fairly safe, as the Berlin police does not actively pursue smokers. You will often catch the smell of burning grass in Berlin’s parks, especially during the sunny summer weekends.

Is marijuana legal in Berlin?

No. Recreational marijuana is illegal in Germany, and Berlin is no exception. However, less than 11 grams is considered a “small amount” in Berlin, and criminal charges may be dropped by the authorities. Many people say that most small amount charges in Berlin are not prosecuted, but that’s not guaranteed. However, possession charges above 11 grams must be prosecuted by law.

Normally, as long as you are a responsible, considerate smoker and avoid smoking in public places, you should be fine. The Berlin police has bigger problems to deal with, but they will intervene if people complain.

Since 2017, medical marijuana is legal for seriously ill patients with a prescription. There is currently no federal proposal for the legalization of recreational marijuana.

What happens if I get caught?

If you get caught with cannabis on you, you will be taken to the police station and questioned. Your photo and information will be taken, and you will be let go. As long as you remain polite and do what you are told, this will not be an issue.

A few weeks later, you will get a letter that’s essentially a receipt for your visit to the police station. It is safe to ignore that letter, as it does not require any action from you. At this point, your case is still open.

Eventually, you should receive a letter that either confirms your case was closed and the charges were dropped, or further legal instructions.

How much should you pay for weed?

Marijuana Travels lets users report the price they paid for weed in multiple cities. Here are the price reports for Berlin. You should pay 10€ or less per gram, but quality weed can be more expensive.

Where do Berliners buy their weed?

There are 3 ways to buy weed in Berlin: on Telegram, through street dealers or through your friends. The former is usually done through dealers in Görlitzer Park and Volkspark Hasenheide. The latter is done through friends of friends who know someone.

Your friends might already know a dealer. Just ask around. You will find at least one friend who has a safe, reliable dealer. You will get better, cheaper, safer weed than if you go to a park.

Telegram is the easiest option if your friends don’t know any dealers. This is a very common way to buy weed in Berlin. There are many Telegram groups you can join that put you in contact with drug dealers in Berlin. Some groups are run by a single dealer, and others let dealers and buyers find each other.

The parks should be your last option. They sell very low quality weed in parks. It’s often laced with dangerous chemicals.

Is buying weed from parks safe?

No. The weed you buy from random dealers is not always safe for consumption. More often than not, you will get contaminated weed. Park dealers usually sell low quality weed and put chemicals in it to make it look better. These chemicals irritate your throat and leave a nasty taste in your mouth. Brix and grit weed are two especially common threats in Berlin.

Buying weed from Görlitzer and Hasenheide

If you still decide to buy marijuana from Berlin’s parks, here is how it usually works.

Whether you are in Hasenheide or Görlitzer, the process is the same. All you need to bring is a baggie and some money. Most dealers speak enough English to get you what you want, but knowing a little German never hurts.

Dealers are easy to find; they will approach you as you walk through the park. The common wisdom is to avoid the dealers at the entrance and go for the less obnoxious ones deeper in the park. Do not deal with the men who approach you around the Görlitzer Bahnhof station. It’s also much safer to go during the day.

Once you have picked a dealer, all you have to do is make eye contact and approach him. Tell the man what you want, and he will direct you to his friend hiding in the bushes.

Tell his partner in the bushes what you want and how much you want. Once you show him the money, he will pull a bag of weed from a branch and put more or less the right amount in your palm. If you are feeling cheeky, you can negotiate and get a little more. Dealers will not make change, so give them the exact amount of money and keep the transaction as frictionless as possible.

Put the weed in your baggie, hide the baggie and head out of the park. Be aware that police officers who sometimes hang around the entrances and intercept people with drugs on them.

Disclaimer

This article was not written to promote the use of illegal drugs, but to make their consumption as safe as possible, should you decide to break the law on your own accord. All About Berlin does not condone the consumption of cannabis. Be safe and responsible.

Useful links

  • Buying (contaminated) weed in Hasenheide for newbies – Reddit thread
  • PSA for people looking to buy weed (spoiler: it’s all contaminated) – Reddit thread
  • How do I know if my cannabis is contaminated? – Cannaconnection.com guide
Volkspark Hasenheide
Görlitzer Park

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Berlin is a weed-friendly city. You can often smell it in the parks and around the city. Here is how to buy marijuana safely in Germany's capital.