Wednesday, December 7

Germany paves the way for the legalization of cannabis

The German Government is preparing to legalize the consumption and cultivation of cannabis and its derivatives for private use, with the prospect of reaching this goal by 2024 and which will be subject to prior consultation by the European Commission (EC).

The Minister of Health, Karl Lauterbach, presented the main lines of the future bill, which were approved this Tuesday in the Council of Ministers and which propose to decriminalize the consumption, purchase and possession of between 20 and 30 grams, whether in the private sphere or in public spaces. Likewise, its cultivation will be authorized in limited quantities, still to be specified, but which the minister estimated at “about three plants” per person.

“It will be, when it ends, the most permissive legislation in the entire European Union,” said the minister, for whom the main line of future regulations is not “liberalization”, according to the model of the Netherlands, but a “regulation ”.

Its objective is to stifle the black market related to marijuana or hashish and the criminal networks that control it. For this, it is expected that its sale will be carried out in premises with the corresponding license, which will not necessarily be pharmacies, according to Lauterbach. In this way, the aim is to achieve a “controlled” supply of cannabis, in accordance with the principle of regulation sought by the minister.

The legalization of psychotropic drugs was included in the coalition pact signed last December between Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Greens and the Liberal Party (FDP).

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

The head of Health considers that legalizing and regulating access to cannabis is a “priority issue” for the protection of minors, among whom an increase in drug addictions is observed, while the black market “flourishes”.

Lauterbach insisted that the first step will be to present his guidelines to the EC and submit them for evaluation “in bilateral talks”. Only if they receive a positive assessment from Brussels will it be presented in the form of a bill before Parliament, which the minister considers could happen in the first quarter of the year. It will be a complex process, Lauterbach said, so legalization cannot be counted on until early 2024.

The supervision of the EC is necessary, in the opinion of the minister, to prevent it from being blocked in Brussels once the parliamentary procedure has been completed, as has happened with other previous government projects.

In the absence of the go-ahead from the community, the German government’s purpose has already met with rejection both by the pharmacists’ union, which warns about the health dangers of cannabis use, and also by the federal state of Bavaria, which considers it can lead to “drug tourism” to Germany.

Lauterbach dismissed the Bavarian fears, arguing that in other European countries there are already regulations aimed at releasing cannabis or at least tolerating its use. “It is the dose that makes it poisonous,” said the minister, in relation to health risks and drawing a parallel with alcohol or other consumption, which only become dangerous when addiction is entered.