The German cabinet on Wednesday passed a controversial bill to legalize the recreational use and cultivation of marijuana. One of the most liberal cannabis laws in Europe that could potentially give further impetus to a similar global trend.
The legislation, which has yet to pass parliament, will allow adults to possess up to 25 grams (0,88 oz) of the drug, grow up to three plants or buy weed as members of non-profit cannabis clubs. Chancellor Olaf Scholz's centre-left government hopes the law will curb the black market, protect consumers from contaminated marijuana and reduce drug-related crime.
Awareness around cannabis
An important pillar of the plan, which breaks the taboo around cannabis use, is also a campaign to raise awareness about the risks, which should ultimately curb consumption, said Health Minister Karl Lauterbach of the Social Democrats (SPD) of Scholz.
"With the current procedures we could not seriously protect children and young people, the subject has been made a taboo," Lauterbach told a press conference in Berlin to present the law. “We have rising, problematic consumption, we couldn't just let this continue. So this is an important turning point in our drug policy.”
According to the Ministry of Health, the number of adults in Germany between the ages of 18 and 25 who have used cannabis at least once will almost double by 2021 from the previous decade to 25%. Young adults are considered vulnerable to the health risks of cannabis. The new legislation limits the amount of cannabis for this group to 30 grams per month. Above a certain age, 50 grams per month is allowed.
Against the law
Opposition to the legislation is fierce, with mostly conservative policymakers warning that marijuana use will be encouraged and that the new legislation will create even more work for authorities. “This law will lead to a complete loss of control,” Armin Schuster, conservative interior minister of the state of Saxony, told media group RND.
A UN narcotics watchdog said in March that government moves to legalize recreational use of marijuana have led to increased consumption and cannabis-related health problems. However, Lauterbach indicates that Germany has learned from the mistakes of other countries. The Scholz government, after consultations with Brussels, has already watered down initial plans to allow the widespread sale of cannabis in licensed shops. Instead, a pilot project is being launched for a small number of licensed shops to test the effects of a commercial recreational cannabis supply chain over five years. Separate legislation will have to be introduced for this in a second phase. Similar projects already exist or are planned in the Netherlands and Switzerland.
Legalization in Europe
Many countries in Europe have cannabis already legalized for limited medicinal purposes, including Germany since 2017. Others have decriminalized its general use. At the end of 2021, Malta became the first European country to allow the limited cultivation and possession of cannabis for personal use. Germany is the first major European country to do so.
The legislation presented on Wednesday contains strict rules for growing weed - cannabis clubs of up to 500 members must have burglar-resistant doors and windows and greenhouses must be fenced. Employees are not allowed to smoke weed in the clubs or near schools, nurseries, playgrounds or sports grounds.
The German Hemp Association said the rules were "unrealistic" and that the black market could only really be fought with the introduction of cannabis sales in shops. The parliamentary drug policy spokeswoman for junior coalition partner the Free Democrats, Kristine Luetke, accused Lauterbach of pursuing a “prohibition policy” and creating a “bureaucratic monster.”
Source: Reuters.com (EN)