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Marijuana Possession in Germany

The legal status of marijuana possession in Germany is not straightforward. The use of medical cannabis is now permitted in some situations, and “small amounts” in a private capacity can be seen as “insignificant” for the purposes of criminal law. When it comes to marijuana and the law in Germany several factors can be involved in a case such as: the amount possessed, how it has been used, the purpose of the possession and, even, which German state you are in. Therefore, knowing the law in Germany is vital.

If you require expert legal advice, support and representation regarding marijuana possession and offences in Germany, please do not hesitate to contact the team at Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte.

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The Legal Status of Marijuana in Germany

Marijuana possession in Germany is illegal. However, it is deemed to be a lesser drug than heroin or cocaine according to the Annexes of the German Narcotics Act. As marijuana features under Annex III of the Narcotics Act  there is more leeway as regards marijuana possession in comparison with harder drugs. However, the sale, distribution and growth of marijuana is illegal. Should a case be brought to court and the defendant be found guilty of marijuana offences they can face a fine or even imprisonment.

However, as stated, there is some degree of leeway since marijuana is seen as a lower level drug than other “harder” substances. According to § 31a German Narcotics Act criminal action can be discontinued for an “insignificant amount” used for personal purposes. This “not insignificant amount” varies in the different states of Germany and we will outline what this means in this article. Cases can also be dropped where there is no “public interest” in pursuing the case in question. Therefore, steps such as personal consumption by an individual may not be considered in the “public interest” whereas the sale and distribution of the substance will be more likely seen as a potential offence.


Marijuana Possession: Insignificant Amounts

This loophole is useful to be aware of when it comes to marijuana possession. However, may not be applicable in all cases. Essentially the authorities will make the decision on whether to bring further action, even if you do have a small amount of marijuana in your possession. But with this allowance to waive sanctions for possessing “insignificant amounts” it is important to know what this amount is. Where someone is based in Germany plays an important role in the definition for what an “insignificant amount” is. The values listed here apply to the weight of the product as opposed to the THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) value and refer to the amounts allowed for in the different states:

State Insignificant Amount
Thuringia / Thüringen Depends on the case
Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania / Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Depends on the case
Baden-Württemberg Up to 6g
Bavaria / Bayern Up to 6g
Lower Saxony/ Niedersachsen Up to 6g
Hamburg Up to 6g
Saarland Up to 6g
Saxony-Anhalt/ Sachsen-Anhalt Up to 6g
Brandenburg Up to 6g
Hesse / Hessen Up to 6g
Schleswig-Holstein Up to 6g
Bremen Up to 6 – 8g
Saxony / Sachsen Up to 6g
Rhineland-Palatinate / Rheinland-Pfalz Up to 10g
North Rhine-Westfalia / Nordrhein-Westfalen Up to 10g
Berlin Up to 15g

It is crucial in such cases that it can be shown that the marijuana possession was for personal use and not for sale or distribution. Essentially, the case must be one in which other individuals will not be harmed by the person’s possession of marijuana.

Should you find yourself in legal difficulties in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern or Thuringen it is particularly vital to contact a criminal lawyer. As there is no set limit for marijuana possession, having a qualified expert in criminal law at your side can be of huge assistance in such cases!


Selling Marijuana

Selling marijuana is an offence under German law and can lead to sanctions such as fines and imprisonment. The sanction faced will depend on the facts of the case. § 29 German Narcotics Act outlines that the cultivation, possession and trade of cannabis and cannabis products can lead to criminal liability in Germany.

In less severe cases sanctions can take the form of shorter prison sentences of several months to one year. In comparison more serious case can bring prison sentences varying from five years to fifteen years. Such cases may involve crucial factors such as:

  • Who was the marijuana sold to? Selling to children can lead to heavier sanctions.
  • The amount of marijuana sold.
  • Whether the sale was performed by those involved in a criminal gang.
  • If there was a violent element to the sale – possession of weapons during sale etc.

Other marijuana criminal activity includes the smuggling of marijuana from abroad. Smuggling the substance into Germany can lead to prison sentences of a minimum of two years. Once again gang membership and smuggling for the objective of sale on a more “industrial” level will impact the level of sentence handed out.


Growing Marijuana in Germany

As Germany allows for the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes there is some allowance for the growing of marijuana in Germany. However, a licence to grow the substance must be obtained by those who wish to be involved in its growth for this purpose. It can be difficult to obtain such a licence and contact a lawyer to find out the steps that are involved with making such an application. The Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (Bundesinstitut für Arzneimittel und Medizinprodukte, BfArM) is responsible for overseeing the growth of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The courts in Germany have also allowed for the growth of cannabis by private individuals for their own medicinal purposes. In the cases where this growing of marijuana has been allowed for strict rules have been put in place around the amount the person has been able to grow and in how they deal with the excess cannabis components. In order to gain such an allowance, the patient has to obtain written permission from their medical practitioner. Once they show that other manners of treatment have been ineffective and that the use of cannabis has been proscribed. For a private individual to be granted legal permission to grow their own they apply for special permission to do so.


Cannabis Use in Medicine

Since March 2017 it has become easier for medical practitioners to use cannabis in their treatment of patients. Prior to the law change special permission was needed by the practitioners but this is no longer required. Since the law change there has been an increase in the number of patients who have used cannabis for medicinal purposes. It has been used in cases of treating multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, cancer, rheumatism and AIDS among other ailments. Doctors may only

The law change has resulted in insurance companies covering the cost of the usage of medical cannabis in hospitals, where they agree to do so. If the insurance company seeks to  avoid the covering of the treatment, they must have a justified reason for not doing so. This justification must be outlined in detail. A decision on the applications should be made within 3-5 weeks and in cases of urgency can involve a 3-day timeframe in which the insurance companies provide their answer.

The cannabis used in medicine is overseen at a federal level where the standards reach a required standard. The Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (Bundesinstitut für Arzneimittel und Medizinprodukte, BfArM) oversees this production and importation. This ensures that the marijuana used for medicinal purposes is of the required quality. As stated above, the illegal smuggling of cannabis can lead to a prison sentence.


Driving Offences and Marijuana Possession

Should you be involved with a traffic collision it is likely that you will be tested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Should you be found to have driven under the influence of marijuana the sanctions faced can vary from fines, penalty points, driving bans and even potentially criminal sentencing depending on the facts of the case. If your act of driving under the influence of marijuana leads to a traffic collision in which another person suffers serious injury or even loses their life, serious criminal charges can be expected to follow.

Additionally, when it comes to driving offences there is the added factor of whether the case is a once-off incident or a repeat incident in a short period of time. Repeat incidences carry greater sanctions. Our article on “Driving Offences in Germany” provides further information on the sanctions applicable to driving offences. This page also involves an outline of driving offences relating to driving under the influence of alcohol and provides a breakdown of the sanctions one can expect for the exact offences in question.

A police check can be worrying for those who may have marijuana in their car while driving. However, act calmly in this situation as irrational acting such as resisting the police with physical force or withholding basic information about yourself can increase suspicion and lead to greater sanctions. Searching a person’s car can only be permitted where the police are in possession of a search warrant. Should you act in an irrational and evasive manner, the likelihood of the police developing suspicions can increase which may lead to them asking you to perform tests.

If you are sober at the time of the police check and are confident that you will pass the test, then it may be advisable to take the basic tests. More detailed testing such as a blood test can only be performed when granted permission by a court. For such an order there has to be a strong degree of suspicion on the part of the police.

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Practice Group: German Criminal Law

Practice Group:
German Criminal Law

Philipp Busse

Lawyer

Dr. Julius Hagen

Lawyer

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