Germany’s federal cabinet has approved a draft marijuana legalization bill, sending the first part of the government’s cannabis reform plan to the country’s legislature for consideration.
Members of the cabinet voted in favor of advancing the legislation, spearheaded by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, after discussing the measure at a meeting on Wednesday.
The proposal, which was unveiled last month, would allow adults to legally possess cannabis and cultivate a maximum of three plants for personal use. It would also create social clubs that could distribute marijuana to members, with purchase limits for people over the age of 21 of 25 grams of cannabis per day—up to a total of 50 grams per month—and a lower 30 gram-per-month limit for those between the ages of 18 and 21.
Those facilities could not be located within 200 meters of a school, and each given city or district could only have one club for every 6,000 residents, and there would be a limit of 500 members per club. A social club permit would be valid for up to seven years, with the possibility of receiving an extension after five years. Membership to the clubs would have to last at least two months under the draft bill.
Lauterbach said at a press conference that the proposal represents a “turning point in a cannabis drug policy that unfortunately failed.”
“The protection of children and young people is a central part of the entire legislative project,” he said.
Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir also touted the plan, saying that “cannabis legalization is coming” and saying it stands for “cannabis clubs instead of drug clans, for legal self-cultivation instead of overtime for the police.”
“I am looking forward to the parliamentary deliberations in autumn,” he said.
„Unsere Politik passen wir mit dem #Cannabis-Gesetz an die Realität an, entkriminalisieren den Cannabiskonsum für Erwachsene und entziehen gleichzeitig dem illegalen Handel den Boden. Danke an @Karl_Lauterbach & @BMG_Bund für die gute Zusammenarbeit!“ – @cem_oezdemir pic.twitter.com/xFKeQyWHmp
— BMEL (@bmel) August 16, 2023
The cabinet-approved bill now heads to the Bundestag, the country’s national legislature, where lawmakers will officially decide on enacting the reform.
A summary of the legislation also outlines estimates of the costs of implementing and regulating the program, as well as savings from reduced enforcement and new revenue that’s expected to be created through wage taxes from people working at cannabis clubs.
Officials are also planning to introduce a complementary second measure that would establish pilot programs for commercial sales in cities throughout the country. That legislation is expected to be unveiled sometime in the second half of the year after its submitted to the European Commission for review.
The measure as previously described by officials would allow cannabis sales at retailers in select jurisdictions as part of the pilot program that would allow the country to assess further reform over five years. Specifically, officials would study the impact of the shops on consumption trends and the illicit market. Localities would need to opt in to allow the stores to operate.
Several medical and law enforcement associations have voiced opposition to the legalization proposal, but Lauterbach, the health minister, has emphasized that the reform will be coupled with a “major campaign” to educate the public about the risks of using cannabis.
He first shared details about the revised legalization plan in April. The next month, he distributed the legislative text to cabinet officials.
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Formal legislation detailing the government’s previously announced framework was initially set to be released by the end of the first quarter of 2023, but that timeline was extended “due to scheduling reasons” as officials worked to revise it in order to avoid a potential conflict with international laws.
Lawmakers who have pushed the government for far-reaching cannabis legalization policies reacted mostly positively to the government’s April announcement spelling out certain policy proposals, though some did point out areas they’d like to see improved.
On Wednesday, Bundestag member Kristine Lütke said the latest version of the proposal still needs several changes, including a removal of provisions concerning a THC cap for young adults and those instituting a “strict ban on consumption around cannabis clubs.”
“This is the only way we can create a practical and meaningful law,” she said.
Das #Cannabis-Gesetz kommt – doch es braucht noch weitreichende Änderungen im #Bundestag:
1⃣ KEINE Besitzobergrenze
2⃣ KEIN striktes Konsumverbot um Cannabis-Clubs
3⃣ KEINE THC-Obergrenze für junge Erwachsene
Nur damit schaffen wir ein praxistaugliches & sinnvolles Gesetz!
— Kristine Lütke MdB (@kristine_lutke) August 16, 2023
The health minister said in March that German officials had received “very good feedback” from the EU on the prior reform framework.
Germany’s Federal Cabinet approved the initial framework for a legalization measure late last year, but the government wanted to get sign-off from the EU to ensure that enacting the reform wouldn’t put them in violation of their international obligations.
The framework was the product of months of review and negotiations within the German administration and the country’s “traffic light” coalition government. Officials took a first step toward legalization last summer, kicking off a series of hearings meant to help inform legislation to end prohibition in the country.
A group of German lawmakers, as well as Narcotics Drugs Commissioner Burkhard Blienert, visited the U.S. and toured California cannabis businesses last year to inform their country’s approach to legalization.
The visit came about two months after top officials from Germany, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands held a first-of-its-kind meeting to discuss plans and challenges associated with recreational marijuana legalization.
Leaders of the coalition government said in 2021 that they had reached an agreement to end cannabis prohibition and enact regulations for a legal industry, and they first previewed certain details of that plan last year.
A novel international survey that was released last year found majority support for legalization in several key European countries, including Germany.