This liberalisation is one of the flagship measures of the coalition agreement between the three Social Democratic, Green and Liberal parties, presented on Wednesday, which will succeed Angela Merkel in the coming weeks.
A mini-revolution in the country. The new coalition government that will take over Germany announced on Wednesday, 24 November, to legalise cannabis.
This liberalisation would make Germany the second EU country, after the Netherlands, to choose the path of monitored sales, and is one of the flagship measures of the coalition agreement of Angela Merkel’s three successor parties, presented on Wednesday.
The future team around Social Democrat Olaf Scholz wants to approve “the controlled distribution of cannabis to adults for consumption in authorised shops“, as stipulated in the contract between the SPD (Social Democrats), the Greens and the FDP (Liberals).
This measure “will make it possible to control quality, prevent the transmission of contaminated substances and ensure the protection of minors,” the document says, adding that “the social impact of the law” will be assessed after four years.
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Public health reasons
Germany already has less restrictive laws than many of its European neighbours, with the possibility that some cities, such as Berlin, reserve a few grams for personal consumption. In 2017, the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes was also approved.
The legalisation of the herb is, in particular, a demand of the Greens and Liberals; the SPD has traditionally been more cautious and supports experiments.
Even if future sales outlets such as tobacco shops, “coffee shops”, or pharmacies have not yet been defined, as the pharmacists’ association proposes, the location is on the right track, especially for public health reasons, the three parties argue.
Indeed, cannabis sold on the street is often laced with other substances, such as hairspray or sand. Health officials are also alarmed by the proliferation of new synthetic cannabinoids with very high levels of THC—tetrahydrocannabinol, the molecule that causes psychotropic effects—which poses a health risk, especially to younger people. Legalisation would thus make it possible to control the composition of the product consumed precisely.
Read the article reserved for our subscribers about THC and how the new cannabis increases the risk of addiction.
Over-the-counter cannabis could also be a boon to state coffers and turn into ‘green gold’, as in Canada or in American states that allow the recreational use of hemp.
Minimisation of consumption
Legalisation still has many opponents in Germany. The CDU’s anti-drugs spokesman accuses the coalition of carrying out an “experiment on the health of our society and our young people”. “Should the state make money by plunging its citizens into the danger of addiction, permanent psychosis and physical and mental suffering? I think it is immoral.”
Police unions fear a “minimisation of cannabis use“. Addiction doctors also warn about possible effects on children’s mental health and the risks of cancer.
Germany wants to legalise cannabis.
Amsterdam may soon have a competitor as Europe’s cannabis capital, as the forthcoming German government plans to legalise recreational use of the drug.
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4.7 billion per year for public finances
Centre-left SPD, the Greens and liberal FDP: “We will introduce controlled distribution of cannabis to adults for consumption in licensed shops,” the parties say in their coalition agreement. “This will allow quality control, prevent the circulation of contaminated materials and ensure the protection of minors,” the document states.
Current German law allows the cultivation, sale, possession, importation, or exportation of cannabis plants, and people with certain illnesses can be prescribed cannabis-based medicines. The Greens and the FDP have long been pushing for the legalisation of cannabis, while the SPD has offered to test regulated drug distribution in pilot projects. It is not yet clear whether cannabis will be sold in tobacco shops, ‘Coffee shops’ like Amsterdam or pharmacies in Germany, but it should be easier to control who can buy it and what to do with it.
According to a recent study by the Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, the legalisation of this drug could lead to about EUR 4.7 billion a year for public finances. The study also predicts that the legalisation of cannabis would create about 27,000 jobs.
But not everyone favours the plan. Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU-CSU alliance has warned that regular consumption of the drug could pose health risks to some people.
In any case, this new reform is likely to spark much debate in Germany and other European countries, which will be looking closely at the changes that will come with this step.
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