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Germany's Parliament Votes for Marijuana Legalization Today [FEATURE]

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1205)
Consequences of Prohibition

(This article was updated following the Friday vote.)

Germany is on the cusp of legalizing marijuana, with the Bundestag approving through a vote on Friday. It now has to pass the country's Federal Council before becoming law.

The final bill is a watered-down version of the full commercial legalization that was originally envisioned, and it comes after long delays because of opposition from lawmakers inside the ruling "traffic light" coalition government. (The "traffic light" comes from the colors of the three parties in the coalition -- the Social Democrats [red], the Free Democrats [yellow], and the Greens/Alliance 90 [green]).

Germany's "traffic light" coalition is set to move on limited marijuana legalization on Friday. (Pixabay)
The country could enter the era of legal marijuana on April 1. According to the bill, as of that date, adults will be able to carry up to 25 grams of weed and grow up to three plants for their own use. Marijuana consumption will remain forbidden for those under 18.

With no legal marijuana sales (for now), people who cannot grow their own will have to resort to membership in nonprofit marijuana social clubs or collectives. The social clubs, which will be limited to 500 members each, will be allowed to grow and distribute marijuana to their members. But for people 18 to 21, that marijuana will be limited to a THC potency of no more than 10 percent, far lower than what is commercially available in the United States, where kind bud has THC levels in the 25-30 percent range.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has been spearheading efforts to get the bill done. Lauterbach said Tuesday that the object of legalization was to weaken the black market, reduce prohibition-related crime, and protect consumers from contaminated products.

"The likelihood that the black market for cannabis will significantly shrink is very high," he said, citing the example of Canada and studies that suggest that legalization will shrink the black market by two-thirds.

The legal marijuana system will reduce the role of criminals who target children and teens, he added. "We can hope that with this law we can end two-thirds of the black market, and in doing so we will solve a big problem, because the black market cannabis is now on the market in toxic concentrations that are very harmful. The criminal dealers specifically try to get children and young people addicted and then try to convert the users into other drugs… I believe that we are taking an important step away from a failed cannabis policy."

The Bundestag had a busy final stretch, with eight different parliamentary committees -- Finance; Health; Family, Seniors, Women, and Youth; Nutrition and Agriculture; Education, Research and Technology Assessment; Legal Affairs; Budget; and Transportation -- taking up the bill before the Friday vote.

Several of those committees will also heard an opposition motion from the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) parliamentary faction.

But Lauterbach was confident. There will "definitely" be enough support to get the bill enacted, he said. "The law will go through the Bundestag," he said. "There will definitely be an appropriate vote. We will get through this."

While the Germans started out with a vision of legalization that included commercial legalization, that excited strong opposition from the European Union and from within Germany itself. Instead, the German bill is now modeled after the legalization law approved in neighboring Luxembourg last year. There, each household can grow up to four plants, but possession and consumption are restricted to the home. People caught with small amounts of weed outside the home face a fine of $157, but no criminal prosecution.

There was also language that would have allowed for pilot programs in commercialization in the German bill, but even that was removed from the final bill. If Germany decides it is ready for full-blown commercial legalization, that will have to come later. Assuming final enactment, for now it will be grow your own and cannabis co-ops.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Brett Hernan (not verified)

This effort will help to alleviate some of the citizens' problems with being prosecuted for possession and use however, as an effort to counter the black market there have been too few aspects addressed in a realistic manner. 

For example, the majority of active cannabis users is within the 15-30 range, thus an entire subsection of society is being left to remain with their status quo black market supplier. The black market will thus thrive with access to both protection for their street traffickers who can safely carry 25gms and, as long as it's from a legally regulated co op grow where an illegal diversion has occurred, there has been provided for them far easier access to even cheaper product without the necessity for cross border importation.

With cannabis clubs only permitted to grow cannabis of up to 10% any illicitly diverted cannabis will not be competitive with the high potency strains favoured by both the black market and the public. Thus it will create a parallel market and have little effect upon the illicit whose market base will remain intact with both those under 21 and the general public seeking more potent strains. If people require medication then why not permit them the most compact form of cannabis there is? 

All that anyone needs to do is process 10% cannabis into concentrates and that restriction will be circumvented also creating yet another market for the criminals, concentrates and one wholly potentially possible to contain profit increasing additive adulterants of a poisonous or otherwise detrimental nature.

If the government accepts there are dangers to the black market in the manner of additives and chemical residues within unregulated cannabis then why not protect the public health and wholly  break their backs with a full decriminalisation and a regulated market? 

It's almost like the core political opposition to the idea has set up this model of decriminalisation to suffer pitfalls and even, at a stretch, to protect and increase the current status quo black market share through lack of regulation recognising the actual circumstances in which the majority of cannabis is consumed within German society.

Fri, 02/23/2024 - 11:12pm Permalink
David Borden

In reply to by Brett Hernan (not verified)

Thanks for these extensive thoughts, Brett. Despite those real concerns -- which hold back the success of legalization in the US in our own ways -- we nevertheless see this as a really historic moment. While we desperately need to improve the competitiveness of the state-legal cannabis market here, to halt the economic carnage the industry is currently experiencing and for other reasons, so far at least that situation has not led to a backlash against legalization. I also would like to know -- if anyone reading this knows, please post -- whether medical cannabis in Germany allows for greater potency, and if it will continue to do so..

Sat, 02/24/2024 - 12:00am Permalink

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