One evening two and a half years ago, Julia Seestädt was sitting with a friend. He was smoking a joint, and the two were talking about how she should get back into the legal profession. She had worked at a large law firm before taking parental leave, but she didn’t want to go back to that. She wanted a fresh start. “Why don’t you just become a cannabis lawyer,” the friend said, laughing. It was a joke that Seestädt took quite seriously. She set up a website and phone number. Then she waited for the first call. The rest is history. She is now a known expert on cannabis law in Germany, mainly cannabidiol (CBD) related. With her law firm Cannabiskanzlei, she mainly advises people in the CBD business. Or those who want to get in safely.
Deutschland: GRAUZONE CBD [Germany: Grey Area CBD]
Interview: Lorenz Hartwig
Photography: Sevda Albers
STIGMA420: As far as we know, cannabis is not a major in law school. How did you become a cannabis lawyer?
Julia Seestädt: First, I did a little research on the topic as a whole. But that’s not so easy, because there is a lot of information about cannabis in criminal law, but there is almost none for CBD. So I learned case by case. Today, you can wake me up at night and ask me anything about CBD and I bet I’ll know the answer straight away – or at least where to find it.
How do your friends and colleagues react to what you do?
In the circle of friends, many have said: Are you a “stoner lawyer” now? Is that even a field of law? But among my colleagues, I get the feedback that everyone thinks that it’s a pretty cool idea!
Being a mom, what do you answer when your kids ask you about what you do all day?
My kids say that their mom is a lawyer, and for them that means that mom explains the rules to other people. My big daughter always tells her friends that her mom is a lawyer for “cannabis”. And they always play it cool and react like: “Ah, of course she is”. Also everyone at kindergarten and school knows what I do. They have accepted it.
How can we imagine your working day?
It’s less spectacular than you think. I used to do everything that had to do with cannabis. Criminal defense, cannabis patients and so on. But now I completely shifted my focus to CBD. Usually someone calls and says they want to start their own CBD store. What am I actually allowed to do? I want to sell buds, oils etc. Or people say they experience massive problems with the authorities. We want to cover ourselves in advance. And some call because the food authority paid a visit or there was a raid by the police.
“I believe that whoever wants to use drugs does so anyway. Education protects and prevents uncontrolled use.”
What is currently the legal situation for CBD in Germany?
It’s complicated. Actually, you would think that everything is regulated quite clearly. But that’s not how it is. In many cases, we have to look at how the courts have ruled and then draw our conclusions and deduce how to behave properly. There is literally nothing written about CBD in the law. The European Court of Justice set some minor milestones last year. But we are still in limbo. CBD is basically a gray area. Even within Germany, many things are regulated differently. It’s not transparent from the outside. That’s why I would like to see clear regulations so that CBD entrepreneurs can behave accordingly.
So, what is the best way to start a CBD business these days?
In the best case, people come to me before they buy their goods, print their labels and build their homepage. We then find out what works and what doesn’t. And of course, what works if we find a creative solution. Then registration procedures have to be gone through. After that, the goal is that my activity ends, because we have – in the ideal case – a product, which is no longer attackable by the authorities. If it does come to a raid, I am of course there for my clients. So basically, I accompany many of my clients on a permanent basis.
Is there a personal motivation for you to care about cannabidiol?
I get the feedback again and again that CBD helps many people in many areas. That’s great. I don’t understand why it should be so difficult to find universally valid regulations for a product that is so widely accepted and needed by society. I also think that, in the end, it would mean quality assurance if it were very clearly regulated what is permitted and what is not. The fact that we are in a gray area is of course also very exciting from a legal point of view.
How do you rate the CBD hype since it can be found almost everywhere like in gummy bears, chewing gum, e-cigarette liquids and so on?
I think you can make a lot of money with CBD. It’s simply a big trend. But I don’t think that CBD should be in every consumer product. If CBD suddenly appears in gummy bears and chocolate, you no longer have an overview of the amount of CBD used. I think that using buds, oils and liquids can have a personal benefit. The other uses are just a trend right now, but in the end the right products will prevail.
How does it look specifically with the topic CBD buds? Are sellers liable to prosecution and perhaps even the consumers?
We are currently at a turning point. Until recently, it was completely clear that the distribution of CBD buds to consumers is punishable by law. Meaning, the dealer and the consumer are liable to prosecution. No distinction was made between cannabis buds with THC or CBD. Now the German Federal Court of Justice has given a verdict. The consumption is only considered punishable if an abuse for intoxication purposes can not be excluded. We are currently finding out how this will be judged by the courts. In Berlin, for example, a charge was not admitted because the judges argued that it is not possible to get high on CBD. In other courts, it’s handled differently.
“Reliable rules make sense. Right now, no one knows exactly whether CBD is still legal or not.”
Do you think something needs to change in the legal situation for CBD and THC cannabis?
Reliable rules make sense. Right now, no one knows exactly whether CBD is still legal or not. An unregulated market has many risks. I am in favor of legalizing THC as well. I believe that a controlled market protects consumers who use it anyway. There are more and more cases of cannabis punched with synthetic cannabinoids, which bears enormous health risks. That’s why we need to protect consumers. People often ask me, how can someone who has children be in favour of legalizing narcotics? I believe that whoever wants to use drugs does so anyway. Education protects and prevents uncontrolled use.
How do you rate society’s view of cannabis in general? Does the perception have to change?
The increase in social acceptance of CBD is simply due to the fact that CBD products are now on the shelves of drugstores and supermarkets. This takes the topic of cannabis out of the criminal corner. The cliché of the stoner is slowly fading – I guess. We are experiencing increased acceptance. But this acceptance does not refer to THC-containing cannabis. In my opinion, that will take a few more years. Also on a legal level, I think the chances for a legalization are still low.
What was the craziest thing that happened to you in your career as a CBD attorney?
I once had to go to customs for a client. The authorities had confiscated a high two-digit kilo amount of cannabis. I got it free and then had to pick it up from customs and bring it to my client. My client had no one to pick up the cannabis for him. So I had to do that. So I drove there with several kilos in the trunk.
Exclusively for STIGMA420 readers: here’s a 5-point emergency plan by JULIA SEESTÄDT of Cannabiskanzlei. In the worst case scenario, she highly recommends you to stay calm and follow these crucial steps:
1. Surrender — When it comes to a search, the search warrant states what the officers are looking for. Voluntarily hand over the searched item, if you can assume that it will be found anyway. Once they get what they are looking for, they are not allowed to search any further.
2. Disagree — It is important to file an objection to the search and the surrender. Specifically: ”Ich widerspreche.”(I disagree.)
3. Cooperate — You should be cooperative. But you don’t have to say anything and you don’t have to sign anything.
4. Get a witness — In any case, it’s better to have another witness present at the seizure e. g. a friend. It is not allowed to film the officers. However, it is allowed and important to take pictures of the search warrant and the seizure protocol.
5. Consult a lawyer — If it comes to identification service treatments, one should consult a lawyer. You do not have to appear for a police interrogation. You only have to comply with official summons from the court.
In case of utter hopelessness, don’t hesitate to call +49 4101 5387954
or visit https://cannabis-kanzlei.de