While much of the discussion about the next government’s agenda has focused on climate change and state finances, one important change that could take effect over the next four years is the decriminalization of cannabis.
The three parties currently engaged in coalition talks – the Greens, the Liberal Democrats (FDP) and the Social Democrats (SPD) – have pledged in their election manifestos to reform the laws on cannabis use.
What exactly do the parties want?
The Green Party makes it clear in its manifesto that it wants a whole new approach to drug control, starting with the controlled legalization of marijuana.
According to their plans, licensed stores would be allowed to sell the psychoactive substance. The Greens say that “strict protection of young people and users” would be the focal point of their legislation and hope to “pull the rug out from under the black market”.
The FDP also promotes the creation of approved stores. Their manifesto highlights the health benefits, tax benefits and reallocation of police resources that legalization would create.
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“Only the sale of cannabis in approved stores ensures quality control and prevents the sale of contaminated substances,” said the Liberal Party. Up to € 1 billion in new tax revenue would be invested in prevention and drug addiction programs, they say.
Center-left Social Democrats also believe that a reform of Germany’s ban stance is long overdue.
“Prohibition and criminalization have not reduced consumption, they prevent effective prevention of drug addiction and mobilize enormous resources in the justice system and the police,” the party manifesto states.
The SPD is nevertheless more cautious than the small parties in their legalization projects. They wish initially to set up pilot projects accompanied by support for young people.
What is the current state of the law?
Possession of cannabis is currently illegal across the country. Those caught carrying the substance can face a fine of up to five years in prison.
However, the law will usually look the other way if you are caught transporting small amounts for your personal use. This will not apply if you have a previous conviction.
The definition of personal use differs from state to state, with Berlin having the most liberal rules and Bavaria the strictest.
People caught in possession of cannabis may not be able to apply for a driver’s license or have their license withdrawn until they present for a psychological assessment.
Medical marijuana has been available by prescription since 2017, although many doctors are said to be reluctant to prescribe it due to barriers to reimbursing costs by health insurers.
READ MORE: Patients in Germany Still Face Barriers to Accessing Medical Marijuana
What’s the reaction so far?
Police unions reacted with concern this week to speculation that the parties were developing a plan to legalize the drugs.
Oliver Malchow, of the police union GdP, said that “it makes no sense to legalize another dangerous drug besides alcohol”.
“We must finally stop shedding light on the dangers of the joints,” Malchow told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung, explaining that cannabis leads to social conflict between adolescents and young people.
Rainer Wendt of the German Police Union said that “if some high-spirited people start getting in cars and driving anytime soon, we’re going to have a problem”.
Concerns about the negative consequences for adolescents are also shared by medical experts.
Meanwhile, Rainer Thomasius, a Hamburg child psychiatrist who has conducted research into the effects of cannabis on cognitive development in adolescents, told broadcaster WDR that legalization would be harmful.
“We have a whole slew of scientific findings that show adolescent cannabis use is more than child’s play,” he said.
He warned that teens quickly become addicted to drugs and therefore often cannot keep up with their education.
Doctors in areas of the United States where cannabis has been legalized have reported an increase in cases of serious side effects in young people, says Thomasius, who also warns that legalization is being pushed by a cannabis lobby in hopes of make billions of euros in profit.
“The ban on cannabis is unconstitutional”
Whether legalization has been a blessing or a curse in the United States, where cannabis is now legal for recreational use in more than a dozen states, is causing particular disagreement among German experts.
“Studies carried out abroad show that consumption among young people does not increase significantly after decriminalization and strict regulation,” Lorenz Böllinger, professor of criminology at the University of Bremen, told the local section . He points out that “cannabis has been readily available on the black market for a long time”.
Böllinger, who has long advocated for legalization, makes an even more fundamental point: he argues that the ban is in fact unconstitutional.
“In criminal law, the state is only allowed to prohibit things that violate the fundamental rights of others! Harming oneself is not a punishable offense, ”he said.
“Legal justification [for cannabis prohibition] is a “threat to public health”. But this justification contradicts the German constitution. By this measure, the consumption of alcohol, tobacco or chocolate should be declared an offense.
SEE ALSO: Seven Things You Should Know About Weed In Germany