Germany legalizes recreational cannabis

Germany legalizes recreational cannabis

New legislation backed by the coalition government will allow limited possession and cultivation of marijuana

Germans will have access to legal recreational cannabis starting from April 1 under new legislation passed by MPs on Friday. The law will allow limited use and cultivation of the drug by adults for personal consumption, but its commercialization will still be largely prohibited.

Legalization of recreational cannabis use was one of the major promises of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition government, with plans repeatedly discussed in the national media in recent years.

On Friday, the bill was supported by 407 legislators in the Bundestag – the lower house of the German parliament. Some 226 MPs opposed the bill and four lawmakers abstained. The legislation will allow adults in Germany to possess up to 50 grams (1.7 ounce) of marijuana in private homes. For public spaces, the maximum is limited to 25 grams. Adults will also be permitted to grow up to three cannabis plants at home.

The law allows for larger drug cultivation in non-profit “cannabis clubs” starting from July 1. These groups must comprise no more than 500 members and will only grow plants for their personal consumption. Operational costs for the clubs will be covered by membership fees, depending on the scale of consumption — and one person can receive a maximum of 50 grams of the drug from the club per month. For under-21s this amount is limited to 30 grams.

Public consumption of marijuana will be prohibited near schools, sports facilities and children’s playgrounds – and minors caught in possession of cannabis will have to go through a drug-abuse prevention program.

Legalizing the drug creates “an alternative to the black market,” German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach explained on Friday, adding that previous legislation had failed since consumption was on the rise anyway.

Germany’s biggest opposition force, the Conservative Union bloc, condemned the new law, with Tino Sorge, health policy spokesman for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), calling Lauterbach’s comments “absurd.” MP Stephan Pilsinger accused the government coalition of seeking to “protect the dealers and not the consumers.”

A poll conducted by YouGov in mid-February showed that Germans were split on the issue. Some 47% of respondents said they were either “somewhat against” or “completely against” the legalization while 42% supported it to a certain degree.

Supporters of the Greens appeared to be the biggest fans of the initiative, with 61% of them being somewhat or completely in favor of it. Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party voters appeared to be almost evenly split on the issue, while CDU voters were the most vehement opponents of the move. The survey involved a total of 3,684 adult respondents across Germany and was held on February 19.

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