Visiting festivals in Germany: sweating across the border

Summer! The festival season! If you're travelling across the border for a festival it's wise to keep some things in mind...

Police control

The Dutch drug policy is fairly lenient, especially with regards to use of cannabis, but once we cross the border it’s quite a different story. Germany especially has very strict drug policies and because the Dutch are known to be big fans of the ‘finer things in life’, cars with Dutch license plates are pulled over more frequently than ones with German plates. If you regularly smoke a joint and are travelling to Germany, remember that being sober has a very different meaning there than it does in the Netherlands.

Don’t be surprised when you’re pulled over to be bluntly asked: "do you smoke marijuana?". Always deny this. If the police officer responds with "but doesn’t everyone in the Netherlands smoke marijuana?" again deny this. Nobody likes to be stereotype.

Sweat test

They could ask you to participate in a sweat test. Since most people assume this to be similar to an alcohol check, almost everyone agrees. But note that the German law states that police officers may only force a test on you when there is credible doubt on your level of sobriety. That’s why it’s best to deny using any drug and to decline sweat testing.

Besides, test isn’t completely reliable. The problem with a sweat test is that it checks for the metabolites of THC. Metabolites are products that arise when a substance is converted in the body. Unfortunately, the metabolites of THC are fat soluble, which means they can be stored in fat tissue and slowly released in the bloodstream, after which they leave the body. When you smoke a joint, the metabolites of THC can be found through a sweat test up to three weeks later.

Despite the unreliability of the test, the German justice system takes action based on the test results. Suppose you’re pulled over, asked to do a sweat test and you smoked a joint five days ago. You are very much sober, but then the sweat test could still show a positive result. This means you’ll have to come to the station for a blood test. Because now they’ve a good reason to examine your blood and this time you can’t refuse. If this happens to you, you please be aware of that you only a qualified doctor may perform the blood test.

The blood test will confirm the presence of THC metabolites which leads to a suspension of your driver’s license for 24 hours.

Is this a fine?

All this because you've smoked a joint a few days ago. They’ll sometimes ask you to pay for the blood test, in cash. This you can refuse, by stating that you can’t pay it now but will pay later. Incidentally, the German police can be very intimidating, but if you keep to your guns that you don’t have that kind of money, then they’ll usually let you go.

It’s unwise to pay immediately, because if it turns out that the blood test comes back negative, it’s difficult to get your money back.

And don’t be surprised if a few weeks later, the bill arrives in the mail. The amount will vary between € 500 to € 750. Even though you’ve been sober for days, this is not something that shows in your blood. The test simply makes it clear that you’ve smoked cannabis at least once in the past three weeks, and that’s why you’re being fined. If you’re ever arrested again for the same thing, the fine will be even higher. For that reason, many Dutch people who regularly party in Germany decide to completely stop smoking cannabis.

Other substances

Cannabis isn’t the only thing that can be detected days after the fact. Stimulants such as XTC, cocaine and speed can be found through a sweat test, although it does depend on the amount used. But in general, if you’re using during a festival, you’d be wise to rest at least a week after the last use in order to safely pass the police checks. The devious Germans are known to cover all exits of a festival. By contrast, ketamine and GHB traces leave your body very fast and LSD can’t be found, due to low concentrations. Police do not check for the use of mushrooms.

Incidentally, the amount of alcohol permitted in Germany is higher than that in the Netherlands. In short, you can be quite tipsy behind the wheel, but three weeks before the car starts to move, it’s forbidden to smoke cannabis. It's wise to keep this stuff in mind.

Festival culture

The Germans can organize some of the most fun and wonderful festivals, but their drug policy is significantly less pleasant...

(This article was sent in by a fan and doesn’t necessarily represent the thoughts and views held by Azarius. In fact, we love police officers everywhere and wish them nothing but peace and happiness)

More information

-Fusion festival guide to dealing with German police