“We are very pleased that the German government is actively pushing ahead with the planned cannabis legalization. Today’s published key positions paper is a first step that needs to be refined in the course of the parliamentary process. Many of the cornerstones are in line with our expectations, such as the elimination of a THC ceiling, strict age controls on dispensing in licensed stores, and the removal of cannabis from the Narcotics Act. Other points such as a general ban on advertising and lack of import possibilities from other countries do not make sense from our point of view, especially in terms of fighting the illicit market and to meet the market demand,” says Finn Hänsel, founder and CEO of Berlin-based cannabis company Sanity Group.
In detail, the company expressly welcomes the fact that cannabis will no longer be legally classified as a narcotic in Germany in the future. However, a simultaneous regulatory adjustment of medical cannabis would also be necessary from the point of view of Sanity Group, as the legalization of recreational cannabis is likely to have a massive impact on this area as well. With the continuing obstacles to reimbursement for medical cannabis, there is a particular danger that patients will treat themselves with recreational cannabis without medical advice.
The Sanity Group takes a positive view of dispensing in licensed specialist stores, and possibly pharmacies, as well as the proposal to examine specialist stores with consumption facilities where specialist care and advice can be ensured. The Sanity Group welcomes strict proof of age checks at all sales outlets, as well as the obligation to provide proof of expertise and proof of specific advisory and prevention skills, as well as the appointment of a contact person for the protection of minors at each sales outlet. Sanity Group supports the approaches tasked with protecting and preventing use amongst minors in their entirety.
“Unfortunately, ecommerce sales are no longer envisaged for the time being in the updated key positions paper. However, it is precisely this that can make a major contribution to displacing the illicit market, as it is the only way to serve rural regions,” says Sanity Group founder Finn Hänsel, who would also like to see a wide variety of products – according to the key issues paper, the government wants to allow dosage forms for smoking, inhalation, nasal and oral intake in the form of capsules, sprays and drops. Edibles are not to be allowed initially. “By restricting the dosage forms, you give the illicit market a gateway to offer more edibles in the future,” Hänsel points out.
The entrepreneur is pleased that a possible THC cap is not being considered: “A limit on the THC content would have meant that the illicit market would continue to flourish with high-percentage THC products and many consumers would not even switch from the illegal to the legal market. Therefore, a limit would have been counterproductive.”
His company welcomes the exemption from punishment for the purchase and possession of cannabis for personal use in private and public spaces, regardless of the specific THC content and origin, as well as the possibility of personal cultivation for private individuals and the discontinuation of ongoing investigations and criminal proceedings, which is a “correct and important signal”.
The Sanity Group also welcomes the fact that cultivation in greenhouse facilities or indoors is to be made possible in Germany. However, Sanity Group sees it as problematic that cultivation is apparently to take place exclusively in Germany due to legal conditions at EU and international level: “National demand will not be able to be met by German production alone. Production in Germany is also expensive and very energy-intensive, which will have an impact on the selling price. Importing from EU and non-EU countries must therefore be made possible in our view to meet demand and push back the illicit market – especially immediately after implementation of legalization,” says CEO Finn Hänsel, who believes the influence of findings from other countries where cannabis is already legalized is essential. In Canada, for example, it took domestic producers a long time after legalization to ramp up production to meet demand, which eventually benefited the illicit market. Sanity Group would like to see further legal scrutiny and search for solutions on this issue.
The company also takes a critical view of a general advertising ban: although a restriction in the area of advertising is perfectly understandable for reasons of youth protection, a general advertising ban is not conducive to the development of an enlightened consumer base. Finn Hänsel: “In our view, a complete advertising ban is not conducive, since product information is essential for education and destigmatization. A completely new legal market is developing in which consumers must orient themselves responsibly. In order for them to be able to make an informed and considered purchase decision, it is also necessary for suppliers to be able to distinguish themselves from one another, e.g. through product design and informative advertising materials. In addition, it should be expected that the illicit market will make moves to differentiate and improve its product selection. A clear way to do this would be through branded packaging. If recreational cannabis that is sold legally is subject to similar packaging and restrictive marketing rules, this will provide the illicit market with a clear advantage which is something we need to avoid.”
The Sanity Group sees the proposed tax model based on THC content as fundamentally positive due to the health policy steering effect, but emphasizes again that the total price for cannabis including all taxes must be competitive with the illegal market (about ten euros per gram). The company also believes that part of the taxes should be used for the protection of young people and target-group-specific measures for education and addiction support.
About Sanity Group
Berlin-based Sanity Group aims to improve people’s quality of life through the use of cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system. In addition to pharmaceuticals, the focus is also on wellbeing and cosmetic products that utilize cannabinoids. Sanity Group, founded in Berlin in 2018 by Finn Age Hänsel and Fabian Friede, includes Vayamed and AVAAY Medical (medicinal cannabis), Endosane Pharmaceuticals (finished pharmaceuticals), Belfry Medical (medical products and digital applications), VAAY (wellbeing) and This Place (natural cosmetics). Near Frankfurt am Main, Sanity Group also operates a production and processing facility for cannabis extracts. More information can be found on sanitygroup.com/press.
Headerimage: Sanity Group // Screenshot: bundesgesundheitsministerium.de