Opposition lawmakers have accused Angela Merkel’s government of deliberately obstructing the production and distribution of medicinal marijuana in Germany.

The country’s cabinet approved a bill to permit cannabis use for medicinal purposes in May 2016 and the new law came into effect in March 2017. However, it has totally relied on imports to meet demand for marijuana among patients as a state-regulated program to cultivate the crop has been held up in a sea of red tape.

More than 100 companies have applied to the Federal Agency for Medicines and Medicinal Products (BfArM)to produce medicinal marijuana. This summer, the government promised it would award the first licenses to cultivate German cannabis in the first quarter of 2019. The first harvest was planned for 2019, but that will not be possible due to further delays.

BfArM said it has not had enough time to mull over the tendering process and declared that it will not be able to award any licenses until the second quarter of 2019 at the earliest. It noted that the first crop could be produced in 2020, but some politicians are incensed by the delay.

Wieland Schinnenburg, of the opposition FDP, called it a deliberate obstruction of the law, a catastrophe for German businesses and a disaster for patients that need cannabis to treat a range of ailments.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats are opposed to medicinal cannabis, while the other coalition partner, the SDP, is on the fence about the issue. Yet the country’s parliament has voted in favour of the law change and, while they can delay the process, cultivation will have to begin at some point.

The next general election will not take place until 2021, and Merkel will be long gone by then, while a cannabis production trade should have been rolled out across Germany.

In the meantime, foreign firms continue to pile in. Vancouver-based Viridium (TSXV:VIR) has just signed an agreement with German cannabis distributor INOPHA GmbH to supply marijuana to pharmacies in the country. Tilray is also making inroads into the market, and it looks as though North American firms will enjoy a fruitful couple of years in Germany before it gets its act together.

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