Coalition agrees: cannabis legalization in Germany on 1 April

Published: Friday, Feb 2nd 2024, 15:20

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After a long struggle, the three government partners in Germany have agreed on the final details for the legalization of cannabis. "The law can therefore come into force on April 1," announced the deputy parliamentary party leaders responsible for drug policy on Thursday evening after a final round of negotiations between the SPD, Greens and FDP in Berlin.

"The regulations are a real milestone for a modern drug policy that strengthens prevention and improves the protection of health, children and young people."

White smoke - in the figurative sense - after lengthy negotiations. The law is now to be passed in the Bundestag in the week beginning February 19. With the agreement of the parliamentary group experts, approval is considered reasonably certain - even if individual SPD MPs have announced that they will vote against. The governing coalition has 49 more seats in the Bundestag than are required for an absolute majority.

The Federal Council is expected to deal with the draft on March 22. However, its approval is not necessary. The state chambers can only lodge an objection. However, as there is at least one "traffic light" party in every state government except Bavaria's, this is considered unlikely. Entry into force on April 1 should therefore now be fairly certain.

Cannabis ban falls after more than 40 years

On this day, the ban on cannabis, which has been in force for more than 40 years, will in all probability be lifted. Sale and cultivation were prohibited by law in the 1970s and early 1980s. Cannabis is now to be removed from the list of banned substances in the Narcotics Act on April 1. Home cultivation and possession of certain quantities of the drug will be permitted for adults from April 1, 2024. Joint cultivation clubs are to become possible on July 1.

The government factions had actually already agreed on the draft law at the end of November. Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) sees it as a "new approach to keep adolescents away from the drug as far as possible, to curb the black market and to control the substances".

First review of the law after just one year

However, SPD domestic politicians raised concerns shortly after the agreement was reached. These included lower minimum distances to schools and daycare centers for cannabis consumption.

However, the legislative package was not tightened up again in the coalition talks. Only the review of effectiveness was tightened up. Instead of only after four years, it is now to be carried out in stages. The first evaluation is to take place after one year, with the publication of the results planned for the end of September 2025. There will be a second review after two years and a final review after four years.

The expertise of the Federal Criminal Police Office will also be included in this process. The main issue is whether the regulations on the protection of children and young people are effective. If necessary, they should be tightened up.

Stoned at the wheel: Union sees danger for road safety

However, the agreement in the coalition is by no means the end of the debate on one of the most controversial projects of the coalition. The CDU and CSU fear that the black market will not be curbed, but encouraged. Hesse's Interior Minister Roman Poseck assumes that dealers will not be deterred from doing business. "As they do not have to adhere to state controls and tax regulations like legal producers, they can bring their products onto the market more cheaply and therefore profitably," says the CDU politician. He cites the illegal cigarette trade as an example.

Increased cannabis consumption could also impair road safety, even if there are limits for consumption, as there are for alcohol. "By legalizing cannabis, the federal government is sending the wrong signal and setting the wrong priorities," says Poseck.SPD MPs announce no in the Bundestag

But even within the coalition, the law remains controversial. SPD MP Christian Fiedler - a criminal investigator by profession - announced in the "Rheinische Post" (Saturday) that he would vote against legalization. He could not agree to a law that would lead to the "decriminalization of dealers and pointless extra work for the police". "Organized crime is laughing up its sleeve."

SPD interior politician Sebastian Hartmann also does not want to agree. "The concerns I had, which led to the law being delayed, have still not been resolved. I therefore cannot agree to the plan as it stands," he told Zeit Online. The coalition agreement had originally provided for the controlled sale of cannabis in certified stores. "But the current law shifts this distribution to the private sector and thus to uncontrollability."


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