A Dumb Scare Story Could Lead to the Creation of Europe’s Largest Legal Weed Market

Negotiations to legalise weed in Germany have been spurred on by unfounded fears that the country’s illegal cannabis is being laced with heroin.
Max Daly
London, GB
November 11, 2021, 2:21pm
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Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Germany’s incoming coalition government is close to setting up a deal that would legalise recreational weed in the EU’s most populous country.  

The coalition parties, under Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, are in talks to make Germany – population of 83 million – one of the biggest single legal cannabis markets in the world.  

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Yet it appears negotiations for legalising weed, a policy contained in manifestos of coalition partners the Greens and pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), only became a reality because a key figure in the negotiations, the Social Democrat (SPD) politician Karl Lauterbach, believes illegal German cannabis is laced with heroin in order to get smokers hooked.  

In an interview with Germain regional daily, the Rheinische Post, last month, Lauterbach, who is also a professor of public health, said that he had been against cannabis legalisation for years. As a doctor, he said he had now come to a different conclusion: "More and more often, the illegally sold street cannabis is being mixed with a new type of heroin that can be smoked. This quickly drives cannabis users into a heroin addiction." 

But analysis by VICE in Germany found there was no evidence to back up rumours in Germany about opioids such as heroin being laced into weed to get people hooked – one of the most common fake drug scare stories worldwide.

Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office said it had not come across weed laced with heroin. Sonia Nunes of Mindzone.info, an NGO that monitors drug trends in Germany, said it was a “complete hoax”. Nunes suggested Lauterbach may have mixed up heroin with synthetic cannabinoids, which have been found in German weed.   

The weed negotiations are not yet a done deal and legal cannabis is opposed by police unions and conservative politicians in Germany. The new administration under Scholz is set to take office in December. 

But with Luxembourg last month becoming the first country in the EU to announce it will be legalising weed, drug reform in Germany could set in chain a rapid expansion of Europe’s cannabis market which is projected to be worth €3.2 billion (around £2.7 billion) by 2025.