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Germany Or The U.S.: Who Will Go First On Federal Cannabis Reform?

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The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act introduced in the U.S. Senate in late July, removes cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and allows states to legalize recreational cannabis. How are American developments stacking up to current events aus Deutschland?

Ironically, just two days after Burkhard Blienert addressed the International Cannabis Business Conference in Berlin about pending German reform and outlined a rough schedule for legislative passage, a cannabis reform bill was introduced in the US Senate by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

A Side By Side Comparison

While German politicians are still unwilling to unveil details of the pending legislation until later this fall, the US version is now available for review and debate. The American bill specifically proposes removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act – an issue still of some contention in Germany. Beyond this, it would create a tax on cannabis product sales, expunge the records of those with past cannabis convictions, and allows federal prisoners serving time for nonviolent cannabis convictions to petition for resentencing. The legislation, if passed, would also establish a national regulatory framework to protect public health and safety.

In Europe, things are still less specific, although first-of-their-kind multilateral talks have now been launched between Malta, Luxembourg, and Germany. Beyond the information gleaned from the hearings in June, European lawmakers are now considering how to proceed not only on a national but regional level.

One of the standing questions on this side of the pond is how individual countries and the region itself will handle the actual legalization itself, including removing cannabis from sovereign narcotics laws as well as regulations at the EU level. There seems to be less interest in dealing with issues like racial justice, although there will clearly be a discussion about how to handle those with both convictions and those who are currently in jail for nonviolent cannabis offenses.

The discussion about taxing cannabis based on the levels of THC found in products and plants appears, for now, to be just a European debate.

The Likely Path To Passage

Right now, the US Senate is the main battleground for cannabis reform. Various bills have passed the House over the last decade only to be shot down in the Senate. It is also unclear whether Schumer has enough bipartisan support to carry the bill through to passage this time – and whether, once also passed in the House, the reconciliation between both bills could happen before the midterm elections.

On the other hand, the German timetable for reform is more likely to create a bill that passes both the Bundestag and Bundesrat, and further on a timetable now alluded to by national politicians.

For these reasons, while it is also very plausible that both debates will drive each other, it seems that Germany (and beyond that Europe) is likely to take the plunge into recreational reform on a schedule ahead of the US.

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