German Cabinet to introduce cannabis legalization bill

16.08.2023, 14:38

By Jörg Ratzsch and Martina Herzog, dpa

The German Cabinet began discussing a controversial draft bill for the planned nationwide legalization of recreational cannabis on Wednesday.

The draft law states that the possession of up to 25 grams of cannabis for people over 18 years old and the cultivation of a maximum of three plants for personal use would be legal.

Cannabis is to be made available through special associations, or "cannabis clubs." However, no cannabis can be consumed in the clubs or within a 250-metre radius of the facilities, according to the draft law.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach is to present the bill following the Cabinet's expected approval of the draft.

The plans by Chancellor Olaf Scholz's socially liberal three-way coalition of Social Democrats, Greens and Free Democrats have drawn fierce criticism, including from the influential GdP police union.

GdP chairman Jochen Kopelke told dpa the prop transition phase is too short, which would "inevitably lead to massive uncertainties, if not conflicts, between the authorities and the population."

Kopelke also fears that the black market would grow and road safety would suffer following the legalization, while the burden on police would grow.

The German Association of Judges also expressed concern about an increased burden on the judiciary, citing the many rules surrounding the cannabis clubs and the cultivation and distribution of the drug.

Several politicians of the opposition conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) also voiced criticism of the plans.

The law would lead to a "complete loss of control," CDU state interior minister of Saxony, Armin Schuster, told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland group.

Meanwhile, the government commissioner on narcotic drugs, Burkhard Blienert, spoke of a "paradigm shift" in Germany's drug policy on Deutschlandfunk radio on Wednesday.

The new law would not trivialize the use of cannabis as critics argue, he said. Instead, it would actually help protect youth and minimize health risks.

The government argues that legal and state-supervised sales could improve youth and health protection, as there would be less contaminated cannabis in circulation.

Originally, Scholz's coalition had plans for more widespread sales of cannabis at licensed shops. But for now, this has been ruled out, in part due to concerns it could contradict international and European Union law.

The draft, which has not yet been approved, is likely to change as the German parliament, or Bundestag, debates it after summer recess. The upper house of the German parliament, the Bundesrat, is also set to discuss the bill.

According to the Health Ministry, however, the law does not require approval from the Bundesrat. The government is aiming to pass the legislation this year.