Nightlife in Berlin Smells Sweeter Than The Law Allows

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Germany’s capital is regarded as the European underground for creative people, and unfortunately, it’s also a drug hotspot for those seeking self-destruction. Examples of artistic destruction have been seen in Lou Reed’s Berlin LP, David Bowie’s wild time in the once divided city, the bestselling book “Christiane F. – We Children from Bahnhof Zoo” Nick Cave’s Berlin years in the 1980’s; the city is nearly as famous as Amsterdam when it comes to illegal substances.

Due to this climate, the traditionally liberal Berlin population has developed a very progressive attitude towards cannabis. The consumption of cannabis has been accepted in a lot of Berlin’s bars and clubs for almost 50 years, just like a freshly tapped beer next to the “Currywurst,” the culinary landmark of the city, and not much has changed to this day. Christine Köhler-Azara, the current Drug Czar of the federal state, has recently acknowledged the fact that cannabis has become a daily routine in the capital. The open attitude of the population and lawmakers alike is slowly manifesting politically, as the recently adopted coffeeshop pilot project proves.

Cannabis is currently offered half-openly in places like Warschauer Brücke or the Görlitzer Park. The tourist hot-spot that has been making headlines since 2014 is by far not the only inner city location where illegal substances are transshipped. Besides the public spots, there are also numerous kiosks or pubs selling more cannabis under the table than drinks over the counter. If such an establishment is closed by the police, a new one will soon open its doors. Not as open as medical dispensaries in Vancouver, but among locals such a reopening is recognized fast. However, the product quality of these street or café deals is lacking and the price is usually very high. Those who consume regularly have found friends or other means to obtain better and cheaper herbs.

Liberal State Law

Since adults in Berlin are given a written warning for the possession of up to 15 grams of cannabis or hashish, smoking a joint in some districts like Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, Neukölln or Prenzlauer Berg is almost as normal as the burning of nicotine. Cigarettes are actually forbidden in bars, restaurants, and clubs all over Germany, but Berlin folks have created a niche, which is more or less in compliance with EU non-smoking laws: smaller pubs, which offer no food, are excluded from the general smoking ban, as long as they are 18+ (in Germany the drinking age for beer in pubs is 16). In the 1970s, 80s and 90s, even a lot of alternative cafés or bars were tolerating small-scale dealing of cannabis in alternative neighborhoods or squat houses. But this is no longer tolerated in the now gentrified environment, unlike the consumption of a few joints.

Instead, you can watch coach-loads of tourists who have read city guides like this. They want to spend two or three days in the capital, in order to enjoy the lacking curfew and the tolerance of its establishments. However, experienced clubbers adhere to a few unwritten rules:

  •  You may also burn cannabis at places where cigarettes are allowed. This may be in, but sometimes also in front of, a club or a bar. Watch the locals.
  • Not to fall in security’s hands during the intake control, the stash is to be hidden discreetly. If the doorman detects it, it will be thrown into the garbage and the joint owner will be kicked out as well as banned for a certain time. The police are rarely consulted if the amount is for personal consumption.
  • Anyone who wants or needs to use harder drugs than cannabis will not consume in public, but discreetly go to the bathroom.
  • Dealers are kicked out and banned. Security is strict about selling, and civilian investigators regularly appear as test buyers, but usually leave consumers alone.

A Few Smoker-Friendly Berlin Clubs

The world famous Berghain now has a smoking lounge where it smells not only of nicotine.

The KitKat Club is smoker-friendly on three floors, and no one is interested in what is rolled into a Rizzla. “Eve & Rave,” a Berlin-based safer-use project, has offered a consumption-accepting drug consultation for many years each Friday.

The YAAM (Young African Arts Market) is Germany’s most famous reggae & dancehall club with a unique African Craft Market on it’s terrain. As a regular venue of “Hanfparade” and other legalize parties, the YAAM is a must for friends of the forbidden plant.

RAW-Temple grounds: There are numerous clubs in the formerly squatted terrain. Especially on the weekends, the huge area is overcrowded. On the way from the subway-station “Warschauer Brücke” to the RAW grounds, you will meet numerous street dealers, who mostly offer cannabis, but sometimes also MDMA, cocaine and amphetamine. This is usually the first stop for weekend tourists who want to enjoy the famous Berlin club life.

Void: Small cozy club in Lichtenberg with lovingly designed chill-out corner.

Kili (mandscharo)-Club: Right next to the Void. Colorful, bass-heavy program from Techno to Dubstep and Roots’n Dub.
This is only a small selection of smoker-friendly clubs in Berlin, without claim to objectivity or completeness. Apart from the ones mentioned here, there is an average of a handful of other clubs and bars in each district of the city center, which have no problem with burning a few joints. But Berlin travelers should absolutely know that even if it feels different, ownership and consumption in Berlin are still illegal. In addition to cannabis, cocaine or amphetamines are often offered during the search for a bud in street. This price of a black market, where all kinds of controlled substances are offered simultaneously to anybody, will be paid until the German capital has opened regulated and legal cannabis stores.

Photo courtesy of View Apart

About Author

Michael Knodt is an expert on cannabis politics and cannabis culture across Europe. Born in North Germany, Michael has been living in Berlin since 1990. He initially studied history and journalism before receiving his certification as a carpenter. Since then, Michael has made regular visits to countries where cannabis is cultivated, such as Jamaica and Morocco. He has worked as a freelancer for Weedmaps, Vice Magazine Germany, Sensi Seeds and numerous German-language cannabis magazines since 2004. From 2005 to 2013, Michael was the Editor-in-Chief of Germanys biggest cannabis periodical. He also is the face and presenter of the most popular program on cannabis prohibition and just launched a new channel called "DerMicha." Aside from his journalistic work, Michael is a cannabis patient, activist, sought-after speaker on conferences and congresses, and a father of two.

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