April 12. 2024. 11:08

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Germany adopts controversial law to legalise cannabis

After months of delays, the controversial law to partially legalise cannabis in Germany finally passed in the Bundestag on Friday (23 February), paving the way for making the possession and cultivation of the drug legal by April.

The legalisation of the drug has been heatedly discussed in the country, both by the opposition and the coalition itself. But despite the revolt of some senior MPs of the ruling SPD, who aimed to block the law, it ultimately received a majority of the votes in the Bundestag.

“Today we are passing a very important law with which we are fundamentally changing our cannabis control policy,” German health minister Karl Lauterbach said in the Bundestag.

With the new law, adults above the age of 18 will be allowed to possess up to 25 grams of cannabis for personal use.

Germans can decide to either home-grow the cannabis plants or to join “cultivation associations” where cannabis can be grown collectively and then shared among the members.

The legalisation of cannabis was one of the flagship initiatives when Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government first took office in 2021.

“We are pursuing two goals. The first goal is to combat the black market. The second goal is to improve the protection of children and young people,” Lauterbach said.

A bumpy road

Originally, the government had planned to fully legalise marijuana and allow for the drug to be sold in shops or specialised dispensaries. However, such a distribution system would have likely infringed on EU and international law, leading the coalition to considerably water down its approach.

The government already reached an agreement on the new law in August 2023, and planned for it to enter into force by January 2023. But in early December, the vote in the Bundestag was postponed.

The approach of the government was plagued by heavy opposition from within the ruling SPD party, with many opposing the legalisation.

While Lauterbach emphasised that there was an “open” and “taboo-free” spirit within the coalition when it came to the law, he also conceded that not everybody was happy with the outcome. “I am aware that there is a lot of criticism,” he stated.

Prior to the vote, two SPD lawmakers, Sebastian Fiedler and Sebastian Hartmann, heavily lobbied within the party to block the controversial law. Only days before the vote, they send a letter to all SPD lawmakers, asking them to vote against the law.

“A drug policy that only addresses the issue of cannabis in this situation is misguided,” the letter reads, arguing that the goals of the government to fight organised crime would not be met with the legislation.

The way forward

While federal states, which are represented in Germany’s second chamber, cannot block the law, they are able to delay the process by voting against it and calling for a conciliatory committee between them and the parliament.

The government of Bavaria has already announced that it will push for such a committee, which would delay the final adoption of the law by months. Furthermore, the regional conservative-led government is currently exploring options to bring the law to challenge the law in court.

But even if the law is to pass this final hurdle its future is all but certain, as the conservative CDU, which is currently leading in the polls, already announced that they would reverse the legislation if they came to power again.

Read more with Euractiv

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