Monday, December 5, 2022

Germany’s plan to legalise recreational cannabis differs significantly from leaked ‘draft’

Germany’s health minister, Professor Dr Karl Lauterbach, has launched his government’s plan to legalise recreational cannabis for adults, noting that banning cannabis has had “no evident success” in recent years. The plan consists of key points agreed by the federal cabinet which would allow for controlled distribution of cannabis to adults for recreational use. Cannabis and THC would no longer be classified as illegal drugs.

The flagship policy was announced in the coalition government’s manifesto last year, agreed by the SPD, Greens and Free Democrats, and appeared to have been given a calm reception by Germany’s population.

A draft ‘version’ of the plan was leaked to the press earlier this month, but has proved to be significantly different from the officially published one. According to the leak, sales of up to 20g of cannabis were to be allowed for adults (18+), and up to two plants grown for personal use. There would be a 15% limit of THC in cannabis products for over 21 year-olds, and 10% for 18-21s.

In fact the plan proposes possession of 20g to 30g, and three plants could be grown at home. Regarding the issue of strength of products, it seems unlikely that there will be an upper limit for adults, but the strength suitable to sell to 18-21s is under consideration.

Cannabis would be sold by licensed shops and pharmacies, and would not be advertised nor sent by post, and packaging would be “neutral”.

Karl Lauterbach, Germany’s federal minister for health, has spent over three decades as an academic in Germany and the US, most recently at Harvard; his specialisms include public health and medical ethics; now he is in charge of Germany’s plan to legalise recreational cannabis

The plan has yet to be approved by the Bundestag, and the implications at European level (compliance with existing treaties, free movement in the Schengen area) have yet to be fully explored.

Professor Lauterbach has not set a timeline for legalisation, but estimated that it could be in place by 2024.

The BBC has reported opposition from the conservative government in Bavaria. Klaus Holetschek of the Christian Social Union said that it “sends a dangerous signal not only to Germany, but to the whole of Europe”, warning that legalisation could encourage European “drug tourism” in Germany.

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