The leaders of Germany’s coalition government say they have reached a final agreement on a bill to legalize marijuana, resolving outstanding disagreements that had delayed action and setting the stage for a vote in the final week of February and enactment in April.
In a joint statement, leaders of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), Free Democratic Party (FDP) and Greens said the proposed regulations “are a real milestone for a modern drug policy that strengthens prevention and improves health, child and youth protection.”
The legislation, originally brought forward last year by Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, is expected to be slightly revised to account for SPD concerns, with plans to expand and expedite monitoring and reporting requirements related to the illicit market, Legal Tribune Online reported.
“We agreed on the final details cannabis of legalization last night. The fight against the black market, decriminalization and better protection of minors will come as announced,” the health minister said on Thursday. “The previous drug policy has failed, a new beginning.”
While the bill would currently mandate a study of youth-related trends post-legalization, with a report due four years after enactment, the parties’ latest agreement would extend it by requiring an assessment of how the reform impacts the illicit market that would be carried out “in a timely manner,” the coalition told the German Press Agency, according to a translation.
“We are setting the course for a completely different approach to cannabis and recognizing the realities of life,” Kristine Lütke of the Free Democratic Party said.
A final vote on the legalization bill that was initially planned for last month 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.
“The final die for a progressive drug policy in Germany has been cast!” SPD’s Carmen Wegge said. I am very pleased that the final discussions have taken place at Cannabisgesetz and that we will now be entering the home stretch at the end of February!”
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, making possession and home cultivation legal for adults beginning in April. Social clubs that could distribute marijuana to members 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.
Following the bill’s final reading in the Bundestag, it will go to the Bundesrat, a separate legislative body that represents German states. Members of the Bundesrat tried to block the proposed reform in September but ultimately failed.
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Lawmakers in the Bundestag recently held a hearing in the Health Committee, at which opponents criticized some elements of the proposal. The body also heard a competing policy proposal from The Union, a political alliance of the Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU), that would not legalize marijuana but instead “improve health protection and strengthen education, prevention and research,” Kappert-Gonther said at the time.
The health minister responded to early criticism of the bill from medical and law enforcement groups by emphasizing that the reform would be coupled with a “major campaign” to educate the public about the risks of using cannabis.
While Germany’s Federal Cabinet approved the initial framework for a legalization measure late last year, 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 last year found majority support for legalization in several key European countries, including Germany.
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