The German Federal Narcotics Act defines schedules of narcotic substances, the framework and procedure for legal trade and prescription of narcotics, criminal and administrative liability, and alternative measures for drug-dependent offenders. Use of drugs is not mentioned as an offence. Unauthorised personal possession and purchase of drugs are criminal offences punishable by up to 5 years in prison. However, the law affords various possibilities other than prosecution when only small quantities of narcotic drugs for personal use are involved. These depend on the amount and type of the drugs involved, the involvement of others, the personal history of the offender, and whether or not public interest would be served by prosecution. Most of the Länder have defined values for ‘small amounts’ of cannabis (usually 6-10 g) and a few have established amounts for heroin, cocaine, amphetamine or MDMA/ecstasy; in the case of methamphetamine, a federal ruling limits a ‘non-small’ amount to 5 g of the active substance. When a sentence is imposed, the principle of ‘treatment instead of punishment’ still allows — under certain circumstances — a postponement or remission of the punishment if the offender enters treatment.
The illicit supply, cultivation and manufacture of narcotic drugs carry penalties of up to 5 years’ imprisonment. The penalty range increases to 1-, 2- or 5-15 years in defined aggravating circumstances, for example if larger quantities of narcotic drugs, minors, gang membership or weapons are involved.
From November 2016, a new law has prohibited supply-related actions involving new psychoactive substances (NPS) that belong to groups of amphetamine-type stimulants, including cathinones and synthetic cannabinoids; these offences are punishable by up to 3 years in prison or up to 10 years’ imprisonment in certain aggravating circumstances.
Drug law offence (DLO) data are the foundation for monitoring drug-related crime and are also a measure of law enforcement activity and drug market dynamics; they may be used to inform policies on the implementation of drug laws and to improve strategies.
In Germany, a slight rise in the number of DLOs has been reported since 2013. Drug use-related offences committed against the Narcotics Act (unauthorised possession, purchase and distribution of narcotic substances) dominate the DLOs, and the largest number of offences (more than half) are related to cannabis, followed by amphetamines.