Germany Eyes THC Limits

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Germany is discussing a few innovative ideas as it works on a framework to legalize marijuana, including a potential cap on the potency of THC, the drug’s active ingredient.

Last fall, the country agreed in principle to legalize recreational cannabis. Medical marijuana is already sold there in pharmacies, but it remains to be decided how the recreational market will be organized.

When that happens, Germany will be setting an example for the rest of Europe and the world. Its pot sales are expected to account for a significant chunk of the $9.5 billion in international cannabis sales expected by 2026, according to marijuana market research firm BDSA.

Last week, German government representatives and more than 200 experts in addiction medicine, law and other relevant niches are discussing the key issues at five hearings this month. Topics range from health and consumer production to addiction and control measures like licensing.

Burkhard Blienert, the German commissioner for addiction and drugs, says that one of the government’s aims is protecting young people from harmful effects.

In the US, there is growing concern about the secondary effects of legalizing cannabis, including whether it creates more access for underage users, who are particularly vulnerable. Legalization has led to demand for more potent weed that contains much more THC than products did even a few years ago. That can lead to an unhealthy dependence on cannabis, known as cannabis use disorder.

Bloomwell Chief Executive Officer Niklas Kouparanis, whose company runs the marijuana telemedicine platform Algea Care, told me last week that industry representatives are buzzing about the consumer-protection measures being discussed in Germany. In particular, there’s been talk about imposing a limit on THC and holding recreational marijuana to the same high standards as medical marijuana when it comes safety checks and product tracing.

While regulators think these steps may protect consumers, there are concerns that setting the limit for THC too low could actually benefit illicit cannabis sellers, Kouparanis said.

“In general, I’m not against THC limits, but completely agree they should not be too low, otherwise you’re just shifting the high THC customers to the illicit market,” he told me.

Germany is holding another hearing on June 30 that will focus on international examples of legalization. The country could find the experiences of US states informative — some cannabis businesses in California, the world’s largest legal markets, have asked for bailouts due to black-market competition. Colorado, meanwhile, has faced opposition to some efforts to impose THC caps.