Germany is preparing to legalize cannabis for recreational use. The country’s coalition government announced on Tuesday that it would permit “the controlled sale of cannabis to adults for recreational purposes in licensed shops.”
The new proposal seeks to create a market for the regulated sale and consumption of cannabis as part of a wider drug policy that would tax dispensaries, monitor the quality of the drug, and establish proactive laws preventing underage use.
The new law is part of the center-left government headed by Olaf Scholz, who recently replaced Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel’s Christian Democrat party had been opposed to the proposal for years.
There is currently no concrete timeline for the legislation, but the Financial Times wrote that “the plan could still turn out to be a game-changing precedent for the global business of growing and selling marijuana, one that will be closely watched by other countries toying with liberalizing their drug laws.”
It is currently not against the law to consume cannabis in Germany, but purchasing the drug is illegal.
Germany follows Malta’s lead
Germany has followed Malta’s lead in the move to legalize recreational cannabis. The EU’s smallest member state was the first European country to change its cannabis laws after the UN last year reclassified cannabis to recognize its therapeutic uses.
Malta officially legalized cannabis for personal and at-home use on December 15.
Malta’s parliament approved a legal reform that gives citizens the ability to grow and possess specific amounts of marijuana. Citizens 18 and over can possess up to seven grams of cannabis and grow up to four plants in their homes.
Any Maltese citizens in possession of between 7 and 28 grams will be fined 100 euros. The fine is raised to 235 euros if they are found using the drug in public, and 300 to 500 euros if they are using it in the presence of children.
Malta’s parliament voted in favor of the reform on Tuesday afternoon, with the bill winning 36 votes in favor and 27 against. It will be signed into law by Malta’s President George Vella.
Equality Minister Owen Bonnici said the “historic” move would stop small-time cannabis users from entering the criminal justice system, and would “curb drug trafficking by making sure that [users] now have a safe and regularized way from where they can obtain cannabis.”
However, Malta’s opposition Nationalist Party voted against the change.
In October, its leader Bernard Grech – who initially supported the new law – warned it would “only lead to the strengthening of the illegal market, with organized crime taking advantage,” according to The Times.
The governments of Luxembourg and Switzerland have both announced plans to establish a legally regulated market for cannabis as well.