Germany announces plan to legalise cannabis for recreational use

Minister says legalisation could set precedent for rest of Europe, though plan is still subject to EU approval

Germany wants to make it legal for adults to purchase and own up to 30g of cannabis for recreational use and to privately grow up to three plants, the country’s health minister has announced, saying the intended outcome could set a precedent for the rest of the European continent.

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

The overriding goal of making it legal to buy and smoke cannabis in Germany, the Social Democrat politician said, was to better protect young people, who were already consuming the drug in increasing numbers after obtaining it on the black market.

“We don’t want to expand cannabis consumption but to improve the protection of youth and health,” Lauterbach said. With about 4 million people in Germany having tried cannabis at least once over the last 12 months, he added, the current prohibitive model “isn’t working”.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s three-party coalition announced its intention to legalise cannabis for recreational use when it took office at the end of the year, but progress on a law has been slowed down by fears that such a step could contravene EU law and international treaties.

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.

If the commission made it unequivocally clear that the German model was not compatible with EU law, Lauterbach said, the government would not try to proceed to legalise cannabis on that basis. If Brussels gave it the green light, he said, a draft law would be presented in the first quarter of 2023.

The outline of the plans foresees it becoming legal to purchase and possess a maximum amount of 20g to 30g of cannabis for recreational use, and to consume it in private or in public. Privately growing up to three plants would also become legal.

Lauterbach said a legalisation of cannabis edibles, such as gums or baked goods, was still being looked into but was unlikely, as was the introduction of a general upper limit on the content of THC, the main psychedelic constituent of cannabis. An upper THC limit for 18- to 23-year-olds, however, is considered likely.

Advertising cannabis products would be banned. “A general ban on advertising recreational cannabis applies,” the outline document says. “Recreational cannabis is sold with (neutral) outer packaging without advertising design.”

The sale of cannabis products would likely take place in licensed establishments such as pharmacies, though the association of German pharmacists has spoken out against legalising the drug, warning this week it could be forced into competition with other commercial providers.

Lauterbach said the German path to legalising cannabis ran counter to that of the Netherlands, which technically still criminalises the growth and sale of the drug.

The Dutch model, Germany’s health minister said, had “combined two disadvantages: liberal use but not a controlled market”. “What we have learned from the Dutch experience is that we don’t want to do it that way”, he added. “We want to control the entire market.”


Philip Oltermann in Berlin

The GuardianTramp

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