German Lawmakers Recommend Marijuana Legalization Amendments, Increasing Chances Of Delayed Enactment

German committees of a national legislative body representing states have recommended a series of changes to a marijuana legalization bill that recently cleared the parliament, which they hope will be taken up in bicameral mediation panel this summer.

It’s currently unclear if the Bundesrat, the state-represented chamber, will formally move to refer the Bundestag-approved legislation to a mediation committee at a meeting scheduled for March 22. If it does, however, its Legal Affairs, Health and Interior Affairs Committees are seeking amendments to the bill.

Should the bill be referred to mediation, that would push back the effective date for legalization six months, from April to October. But the committee itself would not be able to change the law as passed by Bundestag. The mediation committee would need to further refer those possible changes to both chambers for potential confirmation.

A proposal to entirely repeal the legislation failed to receive a majority of the vote in both the Legal Affairs and Health Committees this week.

The Health Committee did accept an amendment from State Minister Petra Köpping of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) to delay the implementation of legalization by six months to account for the “diverse effects of the law on the states and municipalities,” Legal Tribune Online reported.

It also accepted a measure from North Rhine-Westphalia Health Minister Karl-Josef Laumann of the center-right CDU/CSU alliance aimed at addressing the “increased need for prevention work” under the legalization legislation.

In the Legal Affairs Committee, an amendment was accepted to remove provisions on automatic review and possible expungement of records for prior cannabis convictions.

As a back-up, another accepted proposal would delay the clemency implementation until six months after legalization takes effect. Another measure would revise the policy to make it incumbent upon individuals to petition for relief, rather than automating the process.

In the Interior Affairs Committee, members accepted a recommendation to limit cultivation facilities and ban public consumption that could go before mediation.

Again, just because the recommended amendments were approved in committee does not mean they will actually be adopted by the parliament.

The Bundesrat previously tried to block the proposed reform in September but ultimately failed.

Last month’s floor vote in the Bundestag came weeks after leaders of the coalition government announced that they’d reached a final agreement on the legalization bill, resolving outstanding concerns, primarily from the SPD.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, who has for months been the government’s lead on the cannabis plan, said ahead of the floor vote that the country is “fundamentally changing our cannabis control policy in order to combat the black market.”

“The second goal is better protection for children and young people,” he said, pointing to high youth use rates under the current law and saying that the legalization proposal is an “urgently needed modernization of our cannabis policy.”

A final Bundestag vote on the legalization bill that was initially planned in December was ultimately called off amid concerns from SPD leaders.

Lawmakers had already delayed their first debate on the legislation, which was ultimately held in October, ostensibly due to the conflict in Israel and Palestine. They also pushed back a vote scheduled for November as supporters worked on improvements to the bill.

At a meeting in December, the health minister took questions from members, some of whom oppose legalization. At several points, he pushed back against lawmakers who suggested that legalization would send the wrong message to youth and lead to increased underage consumption, saying their arguments “misrepresented” the legislation.

Lawmakers also recently made a raft of adjustments to the bill, mostly designed to loosen restrictions that faced opposition from advocates and supporters in the Bundestag. They included increasing home possession maximums and removing the possibility of jail time for possessing slightly more than the allowable limit.

The legislators further agreed to stagger the implementation of the reform, planning to make possession and home cultivation legal for adults beginning in April. Social clubs where members could obtain marijuana would open in July.

Officials are eventually planning to introduce a complementary second measure that would establish pilot programs for commercial sales in cities throughout the country. That legislation is expected to be unveiled after its submitted to the European Commission for review.

While Germany’s Federal Cabinet approved the initial framework for a legalization measure in late 2022, the government also said it wanted to get signoff from the EU to ensure that enacting the reform wouldn’t put them in violation of their international obligations.

The framework was the product of months of review and negotiations within the German administration and the traffic light coalition government. Officials took a first step toward legalization in 2022, kicking off a series of hearings meant to help inform legislation to end prohibition in the country.

Government officials from multiple countries, including the U.S., also met in Germany last November to discuss international marijuana policy issues as the host nation works to enact legalization.

A group of German lawmakers, as well as Narcotics Drugs Commissioner Burkhard Blienert, separately visited the U.S. and toured California cannabis businesses in 2022 to inform their country’s approach to legalization.

The visit came after top officials from Germany, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands held a first-of-its-kind meeting to discuss plans and challenges associated with recreational marijuana legalization.

Leaders of the coalition government said in 2021 that they had reached an agreement to end cannabis prohibition and enact regulations for a legal industry, and they first previewed certain details of that plan last year.

A novel international survey that was released in 2022 found majority support for legalization in several key European countries, including Germany.

Meanwhile, the United Nations’s (UN) drug control body recently reiterated that it considers legalizing marijuana for non-medical or scientific purposes a violation of international treaties, though it also said it appreciates that Germany’s government scaled back its cannabis plan ahead of the recent vote.

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