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Germany Legalizes Recreational Cannabis Use

Germany's parliament has backed a law which permits the recreational smoking of cannabis in the country.
Germany’s parliament has backed a law which permits the recreational smoking of cannabis in the country. Credit: ubiquit23. CC BY-2.0/flickr

Germany’s parliament has backed a new law permitting the recreational use of cannabis for over-18s in the country, who will be allowed to possess substantial amounts of the drug despite strict rules which will make it challenging to buy.

On April 1 in Germany, smoking cannabis in many public spaces will become legal, with possession of up to 25g, equivalent to several strong joints, permitted in public spaces, and 50g permitted in private homes.

Allegedly, police in some areas of Germany, like Berlin, already turn a blind eye to smoking in public, despite possession of the drug for recreational use being illegal and grounds for prosecution. Use of cannabis by young people has been on the rise for years despite the existing law, said Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, who is instigating the reforms – as reported by BBC.

He is determined to undermine the black market, protect smokers from contaminated cannabis and destroy revenue streams for organized crime gangs. However, legal cannabis cafes will not suddenly start appearing all over the country.

The Cannabis Decriminalisation Debate in Germany

A debate around the decriminalisation of cannabis has been ongoing for years in Germany, with doctors’ groups sharing concerns for young people and conservative politicians stating that a liberalisation law will fuel drug use.

Following a ferocious debate today (Friday, February 23) in the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, the decision was eventually passed by 407 votes to 226. There were four abstentions.

Simone Borchardt of the opposition conservative CDU told MPs that the government had gone ahead with its “completely unnecessary, confused law” despite the warnings from doctors, police and psychotherapists. However, Lauterbach claimed the present situation was no longer deniable, saying “The number of consumers aged betwen 18 and 25 has doubled in the past 10 years.”

After the decision had been taken in parliament, he said the law would “dry out the black market” and fix “a failed drug policy.” The law that has been approved in Germany is complex, with smoking cannabis in some areas, such as near schools and sports grounds, still illegal. Also of significance is that the market will be strictly regulated so buying cannabis will not be easy.

Initial plans to permit licensed shops and pharmacies to sell the drug have been thrown out due to EU concerns that this approach may lead to a surge in exports. Instead, non-commercial members’ clubs, called ‘cannabis social clubs’, will grow and distribute a limited amount of the drug.

Each club will have an upper limit of 500 members, smoking cannabis on site will be prohibited, and membership will only be available to German residents.
Growing cannabis will also be allowed, with a maximum of three marijuana plants permitted per household. Which means Germany will be allowing the possession of substantial amounts of the drug, while simultaneously making it hard to purchase.

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