In terms of politics and society, Germany has been changing and evolving its stance on cannabis. Historically known for its strict drug laws, the country has seen a shift in public opinion over the past decade.
For example, in 2017, Germany took a significant step by legalizing medical cannabis, allowing patients with specific conditions such as chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and severe appetite loss to access the drug with a prescription. This move was heralded as a significant breakthrough, making Germany one of the largest markets for medical cannabis in Europe.
However, the rollout of the medical program faced its challenges. Limited domestic production meant that Germany had to rely heavily on imports, primarily from Canada and the Netherlands. Consequently, supply shortages were common, leading to high prices and many patients struggling to access their medication.
Political parties like the Greens and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) have vocalized full legalization for adult recreational use. They argue that legalization would help reduce the black market, ensure product safety, and generate significant tax revenues. Polls have indicated increasing public support for the move. Still, conservative parties such as the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) have historically been more resistant.
On Wednesday this week, Germany's cabinet approved a bill that, if passed, would permit the legal use and cultivation of cannabis for adults, as per Reuters. The legislation awaits parliamentary endorsement.
Considering this historical context, the bill's passage through the cabinet represents a significant departure from the past. It indicates the shifting attitudes in German politics and society towards cannabis.
The drafted bill suggests that adults can hold up to 25 grams, cultivate a maximum of three cannabis plants, and join non-profit clubs to obtain cannabis. It also proposes a tiered purchasing system: Young adults can buy up to 30 grams monthly, whereas older adults can acquire up to 50 grams.
Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, during a media briefing, emphasized that the new measures would be accompanied by a campaign to raise awareness about the risks, aiming to moderate cannabis usage rates. Data from the Health Ministry highlighted a surge in cannabis consumption, noting that the percentage of German adults aged 18 to 25 who tried cannabis at least once in 2021 was 25% – almost double the last decade.
While the initial plan considered allowing cannabis dispensaries nationwide, the modified proposal intends to initiate a five-year pilot scheme. This will permit a select number of authorized stores in specific areas to evaluate the implications of a commercial cannabis distribution chain. The German hemp association conveyed their skepticism to Reuters, criticizing the proposed regulations as "impractical." They argued that permitting cannabis sales in regular stores would be the key to out-competing the black market.
Should this bill get the green light, Germany would spearhead Europe's most progressive cannabis reforms. In 2021, Malta set a precedent in the European Union by legalizing cannabis for adult consumption. Malta's regulations allow adults to possess up to seven grams and grow as many as four plants.
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