Being in possession of small amounts of cannabis is on its way to becoming legal in Germany after the country’s cabinet approved a plan to begin decriminalising the drug.
A bill that lets people have 25 grams (nearly one ounce) of cannabis for recreational purposes, grow up to three plants, or acquire marijuana at “cannabis clubs” is set to become law.
Those taking part will have to be members of “cannabis clubs” where the drugs will be grown and the new rules will still need to be endorsed the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament and introduced by its regional governments.
The clubs of up to 500 associates maximum, must have burglar proof doors and windows, with greenhouses fenced off.
Members must be German residents who are 18 or older, can only join one club and consumption will not be allowed at the clubs or near schools, nurseries, playground or sports grounds.
Individuals would be allowed to buy up to 25 grams per day, or up to 50 grams per month – a figure limited to 30 grams for under-21s.
Health Minister Karl Lauterbach called the draft law “a turning point” in Germany’s attitude towards cannabis.
Mr Scholz’s socially liberal coalition hopes the plan will limit black market sales, protect consumers against contaminated products and reduce drug-related crime.
Earlier this year, Mr Lauterbach insisted ministers are “not creating a problem,” but rather “trying to solve a problem”.
Their centre-right opponents disagree, accusing the government of legalising a risky drug in the face of European legal obstacles and the doubts of experts.
The move could backfire by putting more, rather than less, pressure on the country’s legal system, according to a body representing German judges, which says it could even increase demand for black market cannabis.
Even some advocates of legalisation are not happy either.
Oliver Waack-Jurgensen, who heads the Berlin-based High Ground “cannabis social club” founded last year, accused ministers of “overregulation”, continuing to stigmatise cannabis users and making it “impossible for many, many (cannabis clubs) to work”.
The government has said it hopes to bring in five-year tests of regulated commercial supply chains in select regions, which would then be scientifically evaluated.
But it’s all far short of its original plan last year, which foresaw allowing the sale of cannabis to adults across the country at licensed outlets.
This was scaled back following talks with the EU’s executive commission.