Text: Chris Fowlie. Photos: Chris Fowlie.
Published in NORML News, Summer 2003.
Germany was once thought to be on its way to becoming the next Netherlands, but it is now considered one of the harshest countries in Europe, with its citizens living in fear of roadside sweat tests and police sniffer dogs.
Having said that, it is rare to be prosecuted for possession, let alone go to jail for it, and there is a thriving German ganja culture with huge Hanf celebrations and parades all over the country.
In the northern cities of Hamburg and Berlin you can smoke reasonably openly and there are quasi-coffeeshops that keep really quiet in order to stay open. Hamburg police will tolerate up to 30 grams as a personal amount – it will be confiscated but no charges laid. The further south you go in Germany, the less tolerance there is, but even in Bavaria it would still be unusual to be arrested for possessing a small amount.
Pipes and bongs are legal even for cannabis use, and the stores selling them all appear to be doing a brisk trade. The Germans are also on the forefront of developing great vaporisers, with two excellent models, personally tried and tested by myself, called the Aromed and the Volcano. Both use electricity to heat the air which is drawn through the finely chopped herb. The Volcano fills a balloon, which is handy for medical users who may not always be able to use delicate nozzles and buttons.
The hemp industry is also big, but unlike in Switzerland, the German hemp is low-THC. Most of it is grown in the south and used to make nutritious food products. Hemp businesses have invested in processing plant and can now manufacture their own hemp clothing, insulation and building materials as well as hempseed foods and cosmetics.
Cannabis seeds were legal in Germany up to a couple of years ago, but they remain legal almost everywhere else in Europe so they are easy for Germans to get. Grow lights are sold next to bongs with no illusion about what they are for. Hash seems the most common form of cannabis, with the black hashes of India and Nepal preferred to the Moroccan. Marijuana seemed harder to come by, and much of it originates from the Netherlands and Switzerland.
The fact that Germany shares open borders with so many countries with liberal drug policies has a lot to do with their tolerance for possessing small amounts. They have no hope of stemming the flow of cannabis from the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, Czech, Poland, Denmark – all countries that have long stopped chasing cannabis smokers, so by tolerating cannabis smokers the police can concentrate on hard drugs.
Germany may be considered harsh by European standards, but it is still more tolerant than New Zealand. As the European Union becomes more of a united state, the German drug laws will move toward the rest of Europe – and even further ahead of New Zealand.