Germany's cabinet on Wednesday approved a bill legalizing the purchase and possession of small amounts of recreational cannabis
Germany's cabinet on Wednesday passed a controversial bill to legalize the recreational use and cultivation of marijuana, one of Europe's most liberal cannabis laws that could potentially give new impetus to a similar global trend.
The bill, which has yet to pass through parliament, would allow adults to possess up to 25 grams of cannabis and grow up to three plants for personal use.
People will also be able to join non-profit “cannabis clubs” with up to 500 members, where the drug can be grown and purchased legally.
Health Minister Karl Lauterbach called the bill a “turning point” in Germany's attitude towards cannabis.
The softer approach will help tackle the black market and drug-related crime, ease the burden on law enforcement and enable safer marijuana use, he said in a statement. communicated.
Minors will not be allowed to use cannabis and the government will launch a warning campaign about the health risks to young people in particular, he added.
“No one should misunderstand the law. Cannabis consumption will be legalized. But it remains dangerous,” said Mr. Lauterbach.
The proposed legalization, the flagship project of Chancellor Olaf Sholz's three-party coalition, would make Germany the country with one of the most liberal cannabis policies in Europe.
But the bill is less ambitious than originally envisioned.
Plans to allow the widespread sale of cannabis in licensed stores were dropped in April.
Critics from both sides
Opposition to the legislation is fierce, with conservative policymakers warning in particular that it will encourage marijuana use and that the new legislation will create even more work for authorities.
“This law will be linked to a complete loss of control,” Armin Schuster, conservative interior minister of the state of Saxony, told the RND media group.
A UN narcotics watchdog said in March that moves by governments to legalize the recreational use of marijuana had led to an increase in cannabis use and health problems.
Lauterbach, however, said Germany had learned from other countries' mistakes.
Scholz's government had already watered down initial plans to allow the widespread sale of cannabis in licensed stores after consultations with Brussels.
Instead, it said it would launch a pilot project for a small number of licensed stores in certain regions to test the effects of a commercial recreational cannabis supply chain over five years. For this, it will have to present separate legislation in a second phase.
Similar projects already exist or are planned in the Netherlands and Switzerland.
Many countries in Europe have already legalized cannabis for limited medical purposes, including Germany since 2017. Others have decriminalized its general use.
Malta has become the first european country to allow limited cultivation and possession of cannabis for personal use at the end of 2021. Germany would become the first major European country to do so.
Legislation presented on Wednesday includes strict rules for growing weed – the cannabis clubs with up to 500 associates must have burglar-resistant doors and windows, with fenced greenhouses. Associates will not be permitted to smoke weed in clubs or near schools, nurseries, playgrounds or sports fields.
The German Hemp Association said the rules were “unrealistic” and that the black market could only be truly combatted with the introduction of cannabis sales in stores.
The parliamentary drug policy spokeswoman for the junior coalition partner, the Free Democrats, Kristine Luetke, accused Lauterbach of pursuing a “prohibition policy” and creating a “bureaucratic monster.”
With its current plan, the German coalition government has taken “an important step towards a progressive and realistic drug policy,” said Agriculture Minister Cem Ozdemir.
But conservative politicians are not convinced.
Bavaria's regional health minister, Klaus Holetschek, a member of the center-right opposition CDU party, called the plans "irresponsible" and said foreign examples had shown that liberalization did little to curb black market.
Decriminalizing weed use would also blatantly endanger people between the ages of 18 and 21, he said, pointing to the health risks of cannabis use for still-developing brains.
The Association of German Judges meanwhile said the legislation would create more red tape and add stress to the court system, instead of relieving it.
This “small-scale law” would result in “many new disputes and court proceedings.”
If the bill passes, the government intends to assess the societal impact of the new legislation after four years.
The government also said it was planning a second phase that would test the production and sale of cannabis in specialist, government-licensed stores in selected regions.
With the planned legislation, Germany will join a series of countries that have relaxed the rules on cannabis consumption.
Malta became the first member of the European Union to legalize recreational cannabis in 2021, while the Netherlands tolerated the sale and consumption of cannabis.
Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize the production, distribution and consumption of marijuana in 2013.
In the United States, dozens of states, including California, have changed their laws over the past decade to allow people to light up.