NewsGerman parliament endorses controversial law legalizing recreational cannabis use

German parliament endorses controversial law legalizing recreational cannabis use

Germany legalizes recreational smoking of marijuana.
Germany legalizes recreational smoking of marijuana.
Images source: © Getty Images | Carsten Koall
7:23 AM EST, February 24, 2024

For years, there has been a debate in Germany about the legalization of cannabis.

A step towards easing drug laws and decriminalizing marijuana was announced in 2021 in its election program by the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), which presently forms the federal government.

Prohibitions and criminalization have not decreased consumption. Instead, they have impeded effective addiction prevention and youth protection, consuming significant resources for judiciary and police enforcement, as highlighted in SPD's election program.

In 2022, German health minister Karl Lauterbach admitted that he had initially opposed the legalization of the popular drug but had reversed his stance.

He explained that legalization is a means to undermine the black market, depriving organized criminal groups of a revenue source, and also protecting users from unsafe drugs.

Lauterbach also referred to a report that reveals a 100% increase over the last decade in cannabis consumption among Germans aged 18 to 25.

What does legalization in Germany mean?

Today, following years of discussion, the German parliament has legalized marijuana. German residents over the age of 18 will now be permitted to possess substantial amounts of cannabis. However, strict distribution rules will constrain availability.

Initially, the plan was to allow sales at selected shops and pharmacies, but the European Union blocked this idea due to concerns over a potential surge in drug exports.

Marijuana distribution in limited amounts will solely be conducted by non-commercial membership clubs, named associations. Each club will have a cap of 500 members, exclusively for residents of Germany.

People will be allowed to possess up to 25g in public places, equating to dozens of strong joints. In private homes, the permissible limit will be 50g (1.76 ounces).

Growing cannabis will also be permitted, with a maximum of three marijuana plants per household.

Over the next few years, the government aims to examine the impact of the new law and, ultimately, implement licensed sales of cannabis.

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Controversy

The new law has triggered significant controversy. Commentators have noted its paradoxical nature, as it legalizes possession of relatively large amounts of marijuana while making it hard to acquire. The highly restrictive distribution rules that exclude, for example, tourists, could invigorate the black market.

Conservatives and some health professionals, concerned about youth health, share this viewpoint. Simone Borchardt from the opposition Conservative Party of CDU described the government's new legislation as a "completely unnecessary, complicated law". The conservative opposition declared that it would completely repeal the law if it won next year's elections.

German lawmakers to vote on legalizing cannabis • FRANCE 24 English

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