Germany has pioneered the legalisation of the purchase and possession of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use, a step that would leave it with one of the most liberal cannabis policies in Europe.
The flagship project will still need to get approval from the European Union and the German parliament before entering statute, scheduled for 2024.
But the move marks a turning point in the drug debate in the EU’s biggest economy.
It is a compromise between advocates of blanket legalization and critics who raise public health concerns.
Under the draft plans, the production and supply of cannabis would be “permitted in a licensed and state-controlled framework”” Health Minister Karl Lauterbach told a news conference, reports RTE.
Consumers will be able to purchase a maximum of “20 to 30 grams” of dried cannabis leaves for private consumption, with supplies distributed through a network of licensed shops and pharmacies, according to the draft approved by cabinet ministers.
The major reform of German drug policy was intended to offer “better youth and health protection”, Professor Lauterbach said, reported RTE.
The current legal framework has fallen short, he said, leading to a “thriving black market” and fueling crime.
Legalization would mean “better quality products and therefore better health protection, as well as relief for our law enforcement, so that they can concentrate on more important things,” Buschmann wrote on Twitter, reported RTE.
The unregulated cannabis trade would be “supplanted” by the introduction of a framework for legal distribution, Professor Lauterbach said.
The cultivation of cannabis and the production of products will be allowed to companies licensed in Germany, with their sale taxed. Adults will also have the option of keeping up to three plants for their own supply.
Under the plans, advertising of the drug would be banned, while the packaging should remain “neutral.”
The government would also consider a possible restriction on the maximum potency of cannabis products sold to adults under the age of 21, due to concerns about health effects on younger users.
However, there would be no general limit on the concentration of THC, the main psychoactive substance of the plant.
Any potential decriminalization of cannabis would be reviewed after four years to assess its “societal impact,” according to the draft proposal, reported RTE.
Germany will submit its plans to the European Commission for approval before proceeding with any rule changes.
“We are in the process of checking whether the key points we have laid out today are compatible with international and European law,” Lauterbach said, a point that will be discussed with officials in Brussels, reported RTE.
The minister expressed his confidence in the approval of the legalization plans, but said that he did not want to “lessen” the risks of an EU standstill.
Professor Lauterbach did not provide a detailed timetable for turning the draft proposals into law, but estimated that legalization could come in 2024.
If the reforms were implemented, Germany would join a short list of countries that have legalized cannabis, including Malta, Canada and Uruguay.
In the Netherlands, a country considered a pioneer in cannabis policy, the authorities have tolerated the sale, possession and consumption of small quantities of the drug since 1976.
Cannabis legalization was one of the flagship policies agreed upon by Germany’s coalition partners, the Social Democrats, the Greens and the liberal FDP, when they formed a government late last year.
For a long time, the Social Democrats opposed a change in the law, and Professor Lauterbach himself admitted that he had changed his mind about legalization.
However, opposition Conservatives have described the government’s plans to legalize cannabis as “wrong and dangerous”, RTE reported.
The health risks associated with cannabis “were not sufficiently considered” in the draft document, the Health Conservatives’ parliamentary spokesman, Tino Sorge, told the Funke media group.
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