Anyone who gets caught with 5 kilograms, or more than 11 pounds, of cannabis in Germany can expect prison time, even if the accused is a medical marijuana patient and lives in a liberal federal state such as Berlin.
However, amid efforts to destigmatize medical cannabis, courts are increasingly showing understanding for cannabis patients in need. That was the case Thursday, June 14, 2018, when an HIV patient in Berlin was issued a fine for possession of 5 kilograms of cannabis.
Stefan Konikowski, 55, who has HIV and hepatitis C, was sentenced by the Berlin-Tiergarten district court to 150 installments of 15 euros each, or a total of $2,614.50, based on the euro-US dollar exchange rate Monday, June 18, 2018.
The defendant and his lawyer asserted to the presiding judge and both lay judges that Konikowski never had the intention to sell, but was using cannabis to alleviate his HIV and hepatitis C symptoms.
During the trial, Konikowski talked about his HIV infection in 1994, his self-therapy with cannabis and futile struggle for a reimbursement by his health insurance. As an early retiree, Konikowski, is unable to pay for his own therapy. The health insurance denied Konikowski reimbursement despite his HIV diagnosis.
According to his lawyer, Konikowski lost 30 pounds, or 13.6 kilograms, since the police confiscated his cannabis, the majority of which he had grown outdoors. Also, his health had deteriorated since the bust because Konikowski can not afford to pay for the marijuana prescriptions he has received since the incident.
The prosecutor dropped the initial charge of cannabis possession and production in her closing plea and demanded the minimum penalty for the possession: one year in prison to be suspended for probation. Defense lawyer Ulrich Kerner said she considered the deed as a minor criminal offense and requested to impose an appropriate fine on Konikowski.
The case had rippled in the run-up after Vice.com reported in March 2018 that Konikowski’s neighbor, a cannabis activist, reported the grow to their property’s management, which reported Konikowski to the police and terminated his lease. The verdict will become final by the end of June 2018.