By Legalizing Recreational Cannabis, Germany Wants To Be A Model For Europe

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With an official plan to decriminalize the buying and possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis to adults, at licensed outlets and for recreational purposes Germany wants to set a precedent for the rest of Europe.

The plan unveiled this week by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach includes the right to purchase and possess personal doses of marijuana, to consume it in private and in public and to permit the growth of up to three plants at home.

“If this law comes to pass, it would be the most liberal project to legalize cannabis in Europe, but also the most regulated market,” Lauterbach said at a press conference in Berlin. “It could be a model for Europe.”

The decriminalization plan, now approved by the German cabinet, is still subject to E.U. approval.

If approved by the European Commission, the German legislation could indeed be a game-changer for the European and global business of growing and selling marijuana as it’s closely followed by other countries toying with the decriminalization of the drug’s use and sales within their borders.

The prohibitive model is failing

The project, aimed at combating organized, drug-related crimes and the black market, authorises the sale of cannabis to adults at licensed outlets and potentially in pharmacies under tight government regulations. It also considers the possibility of sanctioning specialty stores with consumption options like the Dutch-style cannabis coffee shops.

Advertising to promote the consumption of cannabis won’t be allowed and while the government won’t set prices, it will impose strict quality requirements. “Recreational cannabis will be sold with (neutral) outer packaging without advertising design,” reads the outline of the plan.

Lauterbach explained that the protection of young people already buying the drug in black markets and using it in increasing numbers is justification for the proposed legislation.

Government studies show that four million people in Germany used cannabis last year and fully one-quarter of all 18- to 24-year-olds have used it.

Given those numbers, the minister admitted that “the current prohibitive model isn’t working.”

The three-party, coalition government’s intention to legalize marijuana, which was announced mid year, has been slowed down by fears of contravening international treaties and European Union laws.

“In the hope of minimising the risk of a cannabis law being challenged by European courts at a later stage, Germany is planning to submit an outline of its plans to the European Commission this week and seek an opinion,” The Guardian reports.

If given the green light, the government will present a draft law in the first quarter of 2023.

Better than the Netherlands

The German path, as explained by the minister, is more encompassing than in the Netherlands and other European countries where legalization is both confusing and partial.

In Portugal and Spain, possession of small amounts of cannabis can still be a civil infraction at the same time that it’s available in “tolerated” coffee shops or cannabis social clubs.

The Netherlands has made cannabis sales to the public at ‘coffee shops’ legal but still criminalizes its cultivation and sale.

“What we have learned from the Dutch experience is that we don’t want to do it that way,” the German minister said. “We want to control the entire market.”

He also acknowledged concerns that, as happened in the Netherlands, legalizing cannabis could violate Germany’s European commitments to a wider agenda designed to curb illicit trade of other narcotics and drug tourism.

The German initiative follows that of Malta, the European Union’s smallest member state, which last year became the first E.U. country to legalize the use and growth of marijuana for recreational purposes.

“The fate of the reform is being closely watched around Europe,” Politico writes, “where only a handful of countries, like Portugal, have already liberalized rules governing pot and by the North American cannabis industry, which has scented a market opportunity.”

Germany would be the largest nation in the world to legalize cannabis after Uruguay, Canada, Malta and 18 states in the Unites States.

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