Germany unveils cannabis liberalization plan

Germany’s health minister has unveiled a plan to decriminalize possession of up to 30 grams (about 1 oz) of cannabis and allow the drug to be sold to adults for recreational use in a controlled market.

Berlin will check with the European Union’s executive board whether the plan approved by the German government is in line with EU laws and will only proceed with the legislation if it gets the green light, Karl Lauterbach said.

He said the new rules could serve “as a model for Europe” but that “in reality they will not come into force until 2024”.

The plan calls for the cannabis to be grown under license and sold to adults at licensed outlets to combat the black market. Individuals would be allowed to grow up to three plants and purchase or possess 20-30 grams of marijuana.

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has unveiled plans to decriminalize possession of up to 30g of cannabis and allow the sale of the drug to adults for recreational use (Markus Schreiber/AP)

Mr Lauterbach said that if the legislation came into force, “it would be, on the one hand, the most liberal cannabis liberalization in Europe, and, on the other hand, it would also be the most strictly regulated market”. .

According to him, “better protection of youth and health” are the main objectives of the government’s proposal.

“It could be a model for Europe,” which has a patchwork of often restrictive laws, he said.

The minister, himself long skeptical of the legalization of cannabis, argued that the current system was not working, with consumption on the rise and a booming illegal market.

He said four million people in Germany, a nation of 83 million, used cannabis last year and a quarter of 18 to 24 year olds used it.

Mr Lauterbach said Germany did not want to emulate the model long practiced by the Netherlands, Germany’s northwest neighbor, which combines decriminalization with little market regulation.

Germany will consider whether cannabis can be consumed where it is sold, but currently has no plans to allow it, Lauterbach said. The same goes for the sale of the drug in edible form.

Stores selling cannabis would not be allowed to sell alcohol or tobacco products and could not be located near schools.

A protester holds a fake joint during the so-called hemp parade demanding the legalization of cannabis in Berlin in August 2009 (Maya Hitij/AP)

The government does not plan to set a price, but intends to set quality requirements, the health minister said.

He left open whether a “cannabis tax” beyond the standard sales tax, which could be used to fund drug risk information, would be levied, but said the product should not be made so expensive that it cannot compete on the black market.

The cannabis plan is part of a series of reforms outlined in last year’s coalition agreement between the three socially liberal parties in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government. They had agreed at the time that the “social effects” of the new legislation would be reviewed after four years.

Among other liberalization plans, the government removed from the German penal code the ban on doctors “advertising” abortion services.

He also wants to ease the path to German citizenship, lift restrictions on dual citizenship and lower the minimum age to vote in national and European elections from 18 to 16.

The government also wants to repeal 40-year-old legislation that requires trans people to undergo a psychological assessment and court decision before officially changing their sex, a process that often involves intimate matters. It must be replaced by a new “law of self-determination”.

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