The German cabinet passed a law to legalize the use and cultivation of recreational marijuana on Wednesday, a bold step towards a liberal cannabis law that might promote the same in Europe.
However, the psychoactive drug is not completely legalized as its legal status is pending in parliament. If passed, the law permits adults to possess up to 25 grams (0.88 oz) of the drug, they can make maximum three plantings, or acquire weed as associates of non-profit cannabis clubs.
The government led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz has aimed for clamping down on black market, reduce the risks of contaminated marijuana, and finish drug-related crime.
Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said that the law will help create awareness regarding the risks of using cannabis, while also detaching it from the taboo around it and so, will eventually lower its consumption. He also said that the law is the key pillar for the plan.
If such a campaign weren’t launched in conjunction with a change in the law, it wouldn’t attract as much notice, he claimed.
Talking at a news conference, Lauterbach said, “With the current procedures we could not seriously protect children and young people, the topic has been made a taboo. We have rising, problematic consumption, we couldn’t simply allow this to go on. So this is an important turning point in our drug policy.”
According to the health ministry, the proportion of adults in Germany between the ages of 18 and 25 who used cannabis at least once nearly doubled to 25% in 2021 from the preceding ten years.
Young individuals are thought to be more susceptible to cannabis’ negative effects on their health. According to the new regulations, young adults will only be allowed to purchase 30 grams of cannabis every month, as opposed to 50 grams for older adults.
Conservative officials in particular have voiced strong opposition to the law, claiming that it will promote marijuana usage and add to the workload of the authorities.
A UN drug watchdog reported in March that efforts by governments to legalise marijuana for recreational purposes had boosted consumption and exacerbated cannabis-related health issues.
However, Lauterbach claimed that Germany had learnt from the mistakes of other nations.
After consulting with Brussels, Scholz’s administration already softened initial proposals to permit the mass sale of cannabis in authorised stores.
Instead, it said that it would start a pilot programme for a small number of authorised stores in some locations to assess the outcomes of a commercial cannabis supply chain over a five-year period. In a subsequent phase, it will need to present distinct legislation for that.
In the Netherlands and Switzerland, similar projects either already exist or are being proposed.
Status of cannabis in Europe
Since 2017, various European nations, including Germany, have legalised cannabis for specific medical purposes. Others have decriminalized its general use.
In late 2021, Malta became the first nation in Europe to legalise small-scale cannabis cultivation and personal possession. Germany would be the first significant nation in Europe to do so.
In accordance with the regulations unveiled on Wednesday, cannabis clubs with up to 500 associates must have burglar-proof windows and doors, and greenhouses must be enclosed. Associates are not permitted to smoke marijuana within the clubs or close to playgrounds, schools, nurseries, or athletic fields.
The hemp association in Germany claimed that the regulations were “unrealistic” and that cannabis would be necessary to effectively combat the underground market.