Germany makes it official

And Rep. Lee pushes back on rescheduling

Good morning.

Happy Monday, everybody. Today, we take a look at legalization in Germany, the reschedule versus deschedule debate, and much more.

Let’s get to it. 

A 7-minute read from JB and JR

💡What’s the big deal?

Legal cannabis will go into effect on April 1

What happened: Germany officially legalized cannabis last Friday.

Lawmakers agreed to a plan that would allow adults over 18 to possess up to 25 grams of cannabis in public and up to 50 grams at home, grow up to three plants, and distribute cannabis through a nonprofit members’ club system.

The agreed-upon plan also bans advertising for cannabis, and includes an amnesty provision for those convicted under previous laws.

What they’re saying: Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, a champion of the legislation, stated his goals clearly.

“The aim is to crack down on the black market and drugs-related crime, reduce the amount of dealing and cut the number of users,” he said, per CNN

Lauterbach said that he was long opposed to legalizing cannabis, but according to research, removing the taboo around cannabis and giving information on its risks is the right approach, per The Associated Press.

Why it matters: It’s a major step forward for cannabis reform from Europe’s largest economy.

But Germany is charting a different legalization path than Canada, which allowed commercial sales right away. It remains to be seen whether the cannabis club model can support an entire country’s demand, or whether German lawmakers will later seek to implement a regulated commercial cannabis market. 

It’ll be interesting how Germany’s model plays out, and whether it’s a new path for other countries looking to legalize cannabis — or, whether it will just be a stopgap to a more open market. 

What’s next: Legalization goes into effect on April 1, though the cannabis clubs are set to begin operating later on.  

🎤 Quotable

Cannabis legalization is a popular issue that President Joe Biden should capitalize on in the upcoming election, The Hill reports

“It’s a really strong issue with some constituencies that Democrats really need to increase their support and enthusiasm, specifically young people, African Americans, Democratic base voters, people of color, young men of color,” Celinda Lake, the president of polling firm Lake Research Partners, told The Hill. 

Congresswoman pushes back on rescheduling

credit: Barbara Lee for Senate

Driving the news: California Rep. Barbara Lee, the co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said moving cannabis to Schedule III could set full federal legalization back another ‘fifty years,’ reports Marijuana Moment

“Because sometimes you take an incremental step such as this, which took us years and years and years to get through, it will take another 50 years to get to legalization,” Lee said at a National Cannabis Industry Roundtable, an industry trade group, event last Thursday in Sacramento.

Lee added that while she hasn’t heard anything directly from the Drug Enforcement Administration on whether the Schedule III change is coming, she assumes they’ll accept the recommendation from the Department of Health and Human Services and that she’s “getting ready.”

Why it matters: The winds seem to be blowing in favor of the federal government changing its stance on cannabis, though there haven't been any public promises. And despite overwhelming public support for cannabis reform, exactly what that reform looks like is a matter of open debate. 

Last week, multiple influential veterans’ groups called on the Biden Administration to “expeditiously” ease federal restrictions on cannabis. In January, twelve Senators — including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumerwrote a letter to the DEA asking the agency to remove cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances entirely.

Other groups, including the Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, have pushed the federal government to ease its restrictions on cannabis as well. 

The ball is now firmly in the DEA’s court to complete their scheduling review, and the timeline is up in the air. 

A brewing reschedule vs de-schedule battle: Moving cannabis to Schedule III would undoubtedly be the federal government’s biggest move on the issue to date, but it’s far from full legalization. 

There’s also little clarity on how the Schedule III change would be implemented, given that state-legalized cannabis shops would still be selling a controlled substance to recreational consumers. 

Many longtime cannabis advocates, and progressive Democrats like Rep. Lee, say moving cannabis to Schedule III, instead of legalizing it by removing it from the list of federally controlled substances entirely, doesn’t go nearly far enough and will serve to benefit only a few large private cannabis firms, and potentially the pharmaceutical industry. 

They’re pushing for full descheduling, though that may be an uphill battle given the political calculus at play in an election year. 

Additional context: Congresswoman Lee is in a fierce battle to win a California Senate seat, and she’s running third among Democrats, behind Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter. The primary election is March 5th. 

What’s next: We are still waiting for a decision from the DEA on rescheduling. (May we suggest ahead of the March 7th State of the Union as good timing?)

Read more: While moving cannabis to Schedule III could have multiple benefits for the cannabis industry by removing the 280E tax, there are legitimate risks for social equity, as our EIC Jeremy Berke has written about.  

👊 Quick hits

The Virginia legislature passed a bill that would allow for recreational cannabis retail to open in May 2025. The measure will soon hit Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s desk, who has voiced his opposition to legalized cannabis shops. 

🎒 What we’re reading

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