Mixed reactions follow Germany’s planned cannabis legalization

Berlin, Feb 21, (dpa/GNA) – Another hurdle has been cleared on the way to legalizing cannabis in Germany, though divisions remain among lawmakers over the issue.

The leading health committee of Germany’s lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, approved the coalition’s legislative plans with several amendments on Wednesday, according to committee sources.

Starting from April 1, adults will be able to grow up to three cannabis plants at home and possess 50 grams there. In public, adults will be allowed to have up to 25 grams for their own consumption. As of July 1, clubs will be allowed for joint cultivation.

Green Party health expert Janosch Dahmen, called this an “overdue paradigm shift” in drug policy. “We can’t just carry on as before,” he told dpa.

Education, prevention, and legal protection for children and teenagers are “the guiding principles of the law,” Dahmen said.

However, the health expert for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Tino Sorge, in opposition, called the law a “historic mistake” in terms of health, family and domestic policy. “The government is bringing cannabis close to children and young people, and acting like a state-run drug dealer,” he said.

The law aims to push back on the black market, and reduce drug-related crime, curb dealing of cut or toxic substances and bring down the number of consumers, the Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has said.

Already, almost three quarters of young people believe that cannabis use poses an increased or very high health risk, according to the health insurance company DAK.

The poll found 74% of respondents saw the risk of harming themselves physically or in other ways as high.

In contrast, 15% think cannabis use carries no health risk at all, while the rest perceive a low risk, DAK said of the survey of school children’s physical and mental well-being and health behaviour.

Meanwhile 82% of respondents consider conventional cigarettes to be dangerous. Just under 4% stated that they had consumed cannabis in the past month. The DAK head thus calls for a education and prevention programme.

“We need to fill the existing knowledge gaps as quickly as possible. We need to provide comprehensive information about the fact that cannabis use can increase the risk of mental illness and cause serious developmental damage, especially in adolescents, because the brain is not yet fully developed until around the age of 25,” DAK chief Andreas Storm said.

Formally, the law is set to be passed by the Bundestag on Friday. It would then be sent to the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, on March 22, where it is not expected to encounter problems.

As of April 1, the cannabis ban in place for more than 40 years is almost certain to be lifted.

The legislation was agreed in November but there were lengthy discussions within the coalition over protections for young people, with one lawmaker voicing fears that “people would literally be smoking weed on every corner.”

Public consumption is to be banned in schools and sports facilities and within sight of them. Some 18 months after the law comes into force, an assessment is to be made as to its effects on children and young people.