German Cannabis Bill Passes Cabinet in Legalization Push

Germany’s ruling coalition approved a scaled-back plan to decriminalize personal use of cannabis in a first step toward a potential broader legalization of pot in Europe’s biggest economy.

(Bloomberg) — Germany’s ruling coalition approved a scaled-back plan to decriminalize personal use of cannabis in a first step toward a potential broader legalization of pot in Europe’s biggest economy.

The draft legislation backed Wednesday by Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s cabinet would allow adults to possess as much as 25 grams of the drug, the health ministry said Wednesday in an emailed statement.

Adults can also grow as many as three cannabis plants for private consumption, and cultivate cannabis on a non-commercial basis for their own use in associations or cooperatives limited to 500 members. The social impact of the law will be evaluated after four years.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said the legislation, which is expected to be approved by lawmakers before the end of the year, marks “a turning point in an unfortunately failed cannabis drug policy.”

The government’s aim is to curb the black market and tackle drug-related crime, prevent dealing in toxic substances, and reduce the number of users, he added.

“For young people, consumption remains prohibited, and for young adults it should be possible only to a limited extent,” Lauterbach said. “This restriction is necessary because cannabis is particularly harmful to the still growing brain. Cannabis consumption will be legalized. But it will still be dangerous.”

Scholz’s government initially proposed more wide-ranging legalization in a position paper published last year. After consultations with the European Union, it limited the scope of its ambitions, and plans only later to consider a law to allow tests of commercial sales.

Read more: High-Potency Pot Market Worth Billions Draws Regulator Scrutiny

Germany, Europe’s biggest medical market for cannabis, is one of the first major countries to move ahead with legalization plans. Restrictions on marijuana have been loosened in some smaller EU states and its sale is generally tolerated in the Netherlands.

Lauterbach’s plans have drawn criticism from opposition lawmakers, who say that the health of young people could be endangered and police and the justice system overburdened.

Silvia Breher, a spokeswoman on family policy for the conservative CDU/CSU caucus, said experience in other countries shows that cannabis legalization leads to an increase in consumption among young people.

“The government is arrogantly ignoring the warnings, especially from pediatricians and adolescent doctors, about the extreme health risks for young people,” Breher said in an emailed statement.

“The fact that cannabis use can lead to depression, psychosis, anxiety disorders and developmental delays, especially in young people, is simply brushed aside,” she added.

Prohibition Partners, a data firm, sees Germany’s cannabis market growing to €2.1 billion ($2.3 billion) in annual sales by 2027.

An estimated 427,000 patients in Europe will consume medical cannabis this year, and that will rise to approximately 1.4 million patients by 2027, according to the firm.

Wider Crackdown

Elsewhere in the EU, Amsterdam recently banned outdoor marijuana smoking as part of a wider crackdown in the city’s red-light district. Next year, the Netherlands aims to test regulated production and sale of cannabis at some coffee shops.

In the Czech Republic, the government is discussing regulation to allow self-cultivation and wants to set up a system of licensed producers, importers, distributors and sellers to give it more control of the market.

Switzerland authorized pilot trials of cannabis sales for non-medicinal purposes in May 2021 to create the basis for future legislation.

–With assistance from Lyubov Pronina and Kamil Kowalcze.

(Updates with opposition lawmaker starting in 10th paragraph)

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