German Lawmakers Vote To Legalize Cannabis

Germany’s lower house of parliament voted last week to legalize the consumption and cultivation of cannabis by adults, although the measure passed by the Bundestag does not permit commercial sales of recreational marijuana. The legislation legalizes cannabis clubs, however, allowing groups of no more than 500 adults to collectively grow weed for personal use by club members.

“We have two goals: to crack down on the black market and improved protection of children and young people,” Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said during the debate on Friday after lawmakers opposed to legalizing cannabis accused him of promoting drug use, according to a report from Reuters.

The ruling three-party coalition led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz passed the legislation to legalize cannabis in the Bundestag on Friday by a vote of 407-226. Under the measure, adults aged 18 and up will be permitted to grow up to three cannabis plants and possess up to 25 grams (nearly an ounce) of cannabis. The personal possession and consumption provisions of the legislation are scheduled to go into effect on April 1.

The legislation also allows adults to join cannabis clubs of no more than 500 members beginning on July 1. Cannabis clubs would be permitted to grow cannabis for personal consumption by members, who would be allowed to purchase up to 25 grams of cannabis per day and 50 grams per month. Members younger than 21 would be capped at 30 grams of pot each month.

Membership in multiple cannabis clubs will not be allowed. The cost of cultivating cannabis and operating the clubs will be covered by membership fees, which will charged on a tiered scale based on the amount of cannabis a member uses each month.

The legislation bans locating cannabis clubs and consuming weed close to schools, playgrounds and sports facilities. Cannabis advertising and sponsorships are also prohibited. Additionally, the measure requires a report on the effectiveness of the legislation to protect children and youth from weed. 

The plan to legalize cannabis in Germany falls short of the broad reform plan first proposed by the ruling coalition after taking power in December 2021. Under the original proposal, commercial cannabis production would have been permitted, with sales of weed occurring at licensed retailers across the country. The plan was scaled back, however, after talks with European Union officials.

Nonetheless, Germany’s limited cannabis legalization plan is opposed by conservative politicians in the Bundestag and the upper house of parliament known as the Bundesrat, which represents the country’s 16 state governments. 

“You’re asserting here in all seriousness as health minister … that we will curb consumption among children and young people with the legalization of further drugs,” conservative lawmaker Tino Sorge said to Lauterbach, as quoted by the Associated Press. “That’s the biggest nonsense I’ve ever heard.”

Although the measure does not require the approval of the Bundesrat, the chamber could delay the legislation. The conservative government of the state of Bavaria has said it will examine whether it can bring legal action against the cannabis legalization plan.

After the vote, Lauterbach told reporters that illicit marijuana “dealers have no reason at all to celebrate,” noting that the new law includes provisions that set a minimum jail sentence of two years for those convicted of selling cannabis to underage youth.

The vote to legalize cannabis in Germany makes the country the third European Union nation to take the step, after Malta and Luxembourg. Jason Adelstone, an attorney focusing on federal and international policy at the cannabis law firm Vicente LLP, said that the legalization of cannabis in Germany could spur further reform across Europe.

“It is exciting to see the scaled-back German legalization measure finally become law. Even though Germany didn’t legalize commercial sales, the governing coalition should be applauded for turning the page on prohibition,” Adelstone said in an email to High Times. “With Germany joining Malta and Luxembourg in acknowledging that regulation, rather than prohibition, better protect the health and safety of its citizens, it could help propel other EU nations to do the same.”

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