Crime & Justice

Germany lays out path to cannabis decriminalization

Berlin, Oct 26 (EFE).- The German government on Wednesday unveiled its plans to decriminalize the recreational use of cannabis for adults.

The tripartite minority government made up of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and Alliance 90/The Greens – known as the traffic light coalition – presented the main points of the draft bill, which was one of its campaign pledges upon coming to power last year.

At the press conference, health minister Karl Lauterbach of the SPD said that cannabis and its main psychoactive active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) should no longer be classified as illegal narcotics.

“We want to achieve a decriminalization of cannabis use in order to achieve better protection of children and young people, but also better health protection, and thus counteract problems in dealing with cannabis,” Lauterbach said.

The main points of the draft bill, which was approved Wednesday in the Council of Ministers, would decriminalize the consumption, purchase and possession of between 20 and 30 grams.

Cultivation of cannabis will be authorized in limited quantities – as yet unspecified – which the minister estimated at “about three plants” per person.

The government hopes to enact the policy by 2024, but the bill must first be approved by the European Commission.

“It will be, when it is finalized, the most permissive legislation of the whole European Union,” said the minister, for whom the main line of the future regulation is not a “liberalization,” based on the Dutch model, but a “regulation.”

Its objective is to stifle the black market related to cannabis or hashish and the criminal networks that control it and thereby achieve a regulated supply of the drug.

To that end, sales of cannabis will be limited to licensed premises, which will not necessarily be pharmacies, the health minister said.

Lauterbach, a doctor of medicine and one of the most prominent voices in Germany at the height of the pandemic, was previously among those who opposed legalization, but changed his mind before becoming minister.

He believes that decriminalizing and regulating access to cannabis is a “priority issue” to protect minors, an age group that has seen an increase in drug addictions, while the black market “flourishes.”

Lauterbach insisted that the first step will be to present his guidelines to the European Commission and submit them for evaluation “in bilateral talks.”

The plans will only be presented in the form of a bill to parliament if they receive a positive assessment from Brussels, with Lauterbach warning that legalization is not expected until early 2024.

The German government’s plans have already been met with skepticism from the country’s pharmacists’ guild, which has warned of the health risks of cannabis consumption, and also from the state of Bavaria, which believes that it could lead to drug tourism to Germany.

Lauterbach dismissed the Bavarian fears, arguing that in other European countries there are already regulations tending to liberalize cannabis use or at least tolerate its consumption.

“It is the dose that turns it into a poison,” the minister said, referring to the health risks and drawing a parallel with alcohol or other consumptions, which only become dangerous when addiction sets in. EFE


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