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Germany’s Cannabis Decriminalization


German lawmakers made a landmark decision on Friday, approving a government plan that will usher in major changes regarding cannabis regulations. The move is expected to lead to the decriminalization of limited amounts of marijuana and the introduction of “cannabis clubs” for recreational use.

Path to Reform

The Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of parliament, showed overwhelming support for the legislation proposed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s socially liberal coalition, with 407 votes in favor, 226 against, and four abstentions.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach emphasized the necessity of combating the black market and safeguarding young people from potential harm. He pointed out the shortcomings of current laws in Germany, citing a rise in consumption and concerns over contaminated or potent cannabis products.

A New Approach

In a surprising turn, Lauterbach, previously a critic of cannabis legalization, stressed the importance of normalizing discussions around marijuana and educating the public about its risks. Leveraging insights from addiction researchers, he advocated for a shift away from prohibitionist policies toward a more informed strategy.

Key Changes Ahead

The approved legislation includes provisions for:

  • Adults being able to possess up to 25 grams of marijuana for personal use
  • Individuals permitted to cultivate up to three cannabis plants at home
  • Establishment of nonprofit “cannabis clubs” for members above 18 years old, with a cap of 500 members per club

Starting April 1, adults would be allowed to purchase up to 25 grams of cannabis per day or a maximum of 50 grams per month, with stricter limits for individuals under 21 years old.

Club Regulations

Membership in multiple clubs will be prohibited, with the clubs sustaining their operations through membership fees based on individual marijuana consumption. The new system aims to regulate access and ensure responsible use among members.

The German government’s approval of these groundbreaking measures marks a significant shift in drug policy that could have far-reaching implications.

Government Announces Ban on Cannabis Advertising and Sponsorship

In a bold move, the government has proposed a ban on advertising or sponsoring cannabis. Along with this, clubs and consumption of cannabis will not be allowed in the immediate vicinity of schools, playgrounds, and sports facilities. The primary aim is to safeguard children and youths from exposure to these substances. An evaluation of the legislation’s impact on the protection of minors is scheduled to be conducted within 18 months of its implementation.

Opposition Voices Concerns

However, not everyone is on board with this decision. The main center-right opposition bloc strongly opposes the changes. Conservative lawmaker Tino Sorge criticized the health minister, citing concerns about the possible increase in drug consumption among children and young people due to the legalization of cannabis. This led to a heated debate during which Sorge called the idea “the biggest nonsense” he had ever heard.

Crackdown on Dealers

Despite the backlash, Health Minister Lauterbach remains firm on the new regulations. He assured reporters that drug dealers would not have a free pass under the revised legislation. Anyone caught selling cannabis to minors can now expect a minimum sentence of two years.

Scaling Back Ambitions

Initially, the government had ambitious plans to allow the sale of cannabis to adults through licensed outlets nationwide. However, discussions with the European Union’s executive commission led to a scaled-back version of the project.

Challenges Ahead

While the legislation does not require formal approval from Parliament’s upper house, Germany’s 16 state governments could potentially delay its implementation. Bavaria’s conservative state government has even hinted at possible legal action against the liberalization of cannabis laws.

Broader Policy Agenda

The proposed cannabis regulations are part of a series of reforms promised by Scholz’s coalition government when it came into power in 2021. These include easing rules for citizenship applications, ending restrictions on dual citizenship, and making it simpler for transgender, intersex, and nonbinary individuals to update their gender and name in official records.

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