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Legislators in Germany vote to legalize cannabis

By EARLE GALE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-02-26 09:41
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German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach and Climate Minister Robert Habeck attend the weekly cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Feb 21, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

Germany has joined the growing number of nations that have legalized cannabis.

Legislators in the European economic powerhouse of 84 million people decided on Friday, by a vote of 407 votes to 226, to allow the recreational use of the drug.

The new law will come into effect on April 1.

The change, which was championed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz's ruling three-party coalition, brings Germany in line with several other nations that have legalized the euphoria-inducing drug, including Canada, Georgia, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand, and Uruguay. Its recreational use has also been legalized in several United States jurisdictions, and in parts of Australia.

Karl Lauterbach, Germany's health minister, said during the debate that cannabis use had spiked in recent years in Germany, despite laws prohibiting its consumption.

He said the government decided it would be better to allow people to use the drug legally in a controlled way, which would immediately remove a massive revenue stream from the criminal gangs that had been supplying it.

He also said it would be easier to guarantee the quality of the drug that way, with gangs no longer able to supply people with cannabis bulked out with harmful ingredients such as fiberglass.

"The number of consumers aged between 18 and 25 has doubled in the past 10 years," he said. "We have two goals: to crack down on the black market and improved protection of children and young people."

But Simone Borchardt, of the Christian Democratic Union, or CDU, the nation's second-largest political party, said the new law was "unnecessary" and "confused "and ran contrary to advice from the medical profession and law enforcement agencies.

Tino Sorge, another CDU legislator, poured scorn on the rationale for legalizing it, saying: "You are asserting, in all seriousness, that by legalizing more drugs we will contain drug use among young people."

While the new law makes it legal for adults to have up to 25 grams of cannabis in their possession in public places and up to 50g on them in private homes, it does not pave the way for easy access. For now, people wanting to consume cannabis will need to buy seeds and grow their own marijuana plants, via non-profit cannabis-growing clubs.

The government has said it may eventually allow shops to sell cannabis, but it wants to study the issue more before making a decision.

The law only extends to German residents. Tourists and other visitors will not be allowed to possess the drug legally, something Parliament insisted upon in a bid to prevent so-called cannabis tourism.

The new law also prohibits the consumption of cannabis near to schools and on sports grounds.

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