Germany’s largest legal cannabis plantation
Oct. 17 2017, 3:20 pm
Because of grass dealings, Christoph Roßner had already been in prison for five months. Today he works with Bavarian politicians.
This is not really a loose work place, even if grass is to be cultivated, says Christoph Roßner. The Atombunker, before which he stands, is squeezed between car parks and fields in the Allgäu countryside like a stranded oil tank. Here, from the former Fliegerhorst Memmingerberg NATO would have led the nuclear counterattack, had the Cold War escalated. Today the entrepreneur wants to breed cannabis in the bunker. Green haze instead of black rain – within sight of a federal police station and with the blessing of the Bavarian government. Since the beginning of the year, cannabis is legal on prescription in Germany and Rossner’s sentiment is that of a brewer’s owner after the end of the prohibition: “We have the chance to become one of the biggest players in the international cannabis market.”
Alone for 2015, the German Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Abuse (DBDD) counts almost five million Germans who have consumed cannabis at least once during the last twelve months. The dark figure should be even higher. Activists and businessmen have taken this first step towards legalization. Christoph Roßner is both. And also looks like this: black jacket over black sweater, the gray hair tamed to the horse tail. Business in the front, party in the back.
One of the many lock gates between the individual bunkers
From the war machine to the grass factory
The bunker, a 50-meter-long, 15-meter high colossus, with its aerial storms acts like a medieval fortress. From 1985, the Luftwaffe soldiers of the Jagdbombersgeschwader 34 were sitting here, servicing the control systems for the nearby rocket silos. “This bunker is safer than a nuclear waste disposal site, but we want to grow plants here,” says the 47-year-old. He has previously registered with the neighboring Federal Police Station on the visit of the journalists.
The Panzertor groans aside. 175 tons of hardened steel, eight meters wide, nearly one meter thick. A siren howls like a submarine on a dive. Through the opening one reaches the actual bunker, which surrounds the outer wall as the reactor coherent of Chernobyl. Then another lock door, another 30 centimeters of steel. Later, 15 employees of Roßner’s company Bunker PPD, which he wants to adjust, will change the street clothes against overalls without bags and scan their fingerprints. The few, the income, will be nothing to take with. Roßner leads past former team rooms and the radio center, a five-meter-thick steel-concrete ceiling above us. You go ducked, even though you do not have to.
But no matter how many nights Roßner is working on his business plans, in the end others decide: the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices and the Bundespiumstelle, which is subordinate to him. Anyone who wants to produce or use drugs in Germany must either talk to them or seek a good lawyer. But once the TÜV seal of the Panzertür has expired, once the officials discover a tiny mistake in a request: the bureaucrats are editing Roßner, the changing Würgreiz for CSU politicians, so meticulously as if they Franz Josef Strauss’ last will.
Where the radio had previously been monitored, a cannabis laboratory could soon be available
From activist to cannabis entrepreneur
Roßner knows this. For the last three decades he has been working on the legalization of cannabis. Two key experiences are the reason: at 17 he smokes his first joint. He notes: Kiffen helps him to curb his hyperactivity. A year later a steel carrier crushed his left shoulder during his training as an industrial mechanic. Against the chronic pain smokes Roßner cannabis. To this day, now on recipe. “If you like, I’m just tight,” he says. In 1994, a friend of Roßner, who suffers from epilepsy, finds out that marijuana dampens his attacks. Roessner’s sister also suffered from epilepsy. For them, this knowledge comes too late. Two years before, she committed suicide. “I could have helped her,” says Rossner.
From this moment on, he is on a mission: He is worried about marijuana to help others, he says. “Illegal research” he calls this. At that time, as today, cannabis is prohibited by law in Germany. It is only since 1 March 2017 that doctors can prescribe – even without the hard-to-obtain exemption. Although in 1994, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that a small quantity of cannabis can be carried with no prescription – depending on the federal state, between five and ten grams – this verdict does not, however, protect against criminal prosecution. This is what the courts alone decide. Roessner also knew about the risk, especially in Bavaria, When it is rumored that he is running a kind of private hemp pharmacy, more and more people are coming. Rheumatics, neurodermatitis, chemotherapy patients. And some policemen.
If at any time the electricity should fail, Roßner can take advantage of four diesel generators to supply his cannabis lantern with light
Roßner is sentenced: two years and one month. He spends five months in prison and four in therapy. It’s been 17 years now. When he rages, he knocks again at his doorstep. Still, people who have pain are coming. Roßner does not do any illegal business, he continues to believe in the medical benefits of cannabis. Together with the Chair of Chemistry at the Technical University of Munich and the University of British Columbia, he is currently preparing a study to investigate the effects of the most important medicinal hemp varieties and to develop quality standards for them. 150 patients he wants to provide cannabis from his bunker. Will the study and the necessary hemp cultivation be approved, this would be his first decisive step to enter the medical cannabis market. The study is intended to prove that he, the ex-prisoner, is serious.
Politicians, investors and business bosses listen to him
By working with the universities, Roßner hopes that the newly established state-owned cannabis agency will choose him to produce state-certified grass. The agency is to provide patients with marijuana from Germany and is looking for producers all over Europe. In addition to Rossner, other German entrepreneurs are also applying, for example SensHemp from Berlin and Hanf AG from Hamburg. 2,000 kilograms per year, the agency estimates, would have to grow on German plantings in 2021 and 2022 to supply all patients. Roßner believes that German patients need six times a year: over 12 tonnes of grass. If no one has to apply for an exemption, but only needs a prescription, more patients will take this step, he is sure. In addition, it would not be worth it to build a plant worth several million euros. But without permission for the study, he could set up his bunker to a very unpleasant country house.
Plantation air could soon flow through the ventilation towers
Just a strong CSU conservative helps him with his plan. Franz Josef Pschierer, State Secretary in the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, will bring him together with entrepreneurs and politicians from Bavaria in 2016. Roßner tells them about the unused economic potential, possible tax revenues and savings in the police and courts. “Without the help of the Bavarian government, no one would listen to me,” he says. He is now planning his cannabis breeding plant with ThyssenKrupp – and is holding talks with internationally active hedge funds. If they invest in it, the Free State of Bavaria could subsidize its business with about a quarter of a million euros. From tax money. Marijuana sponsored by Horst Seehofer.
In many places in the bunker the soldiers have left something behind
While Roßner sketched his battle plan for the next months, we descend deeper into the airtight crypt. There is neither mobile phone reception nor spiderwebs. Comic paintings on the walls testify to what the soldiers were busy with when they were bored to wait for the Third World War. In one room there are vault chambers, large as overseas containers. Here the mother plants could grow. “Lamps clean, connect ventilation, let’s go,” says Roßner, “more perfect conditions than here you will find nowhere.” A high-security laboratory is to move into the former squadron headquarters. Here, chemists could clone potent cannabis varieties. Next to it stands an industrial furnace, in which former toxins were destroyed at 900 degrees. In the future, the most serious of these will be burned. A few security doors: the space for the cuttings. “We start with 80 different varieties,” Roßner says self-confidently, as if he had the approval already.
In these cabinets Roßner wants to breed young plants
Race with the Dutch
Sometimes Christoph Rossner would ask the same as the early fans of Cherry Coke or anal whitening: When will the backward-looking Germans finally understand what the Americans have long been celebrating? In 29 out of 50 US states , medical cannabis has been allowed or grass has been fully legalized. In 2016, the industry generated sales of 6.7 billion US dollars . Until it is so far in Germany, Rossner will still have to smoke a few blunts on the recipe.
At the beginning of the year, he was sitting with his lawyers to prepare a lawsuit against the Federal Institute for Drugs, he tells us as we step out of the darkness of the bunker. The agency has asked potential medical producers that they have already grown, processed and delivered at least 50 kilograms over the last three years. How is he to apply, if exactly that in Germany so far was illegal, Roßner curses. It is not easy to get a mission in Germany for something that does not really exist at all.
Meanwhile, the authorities want to improve – a small victory, but Rossner is running out of time. The Dutch company Sensi Seeds systematically purchases small cannabis producers in the USA and is now pushing into the German market. Roßner does not want to be bought up. His research project will start in March, followed by commercial operations. He wants to make money himself and make the world a bit better with nothing but a few plants from a Bavarian atomic bomb.
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