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Bill To Legalize Marijuana In Germany Advances After State Representatives Fail To Block It

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Opponents of a proposed bill to legalize marijuana in Germany did not muster enough support to block the measure in legislative body representing states, meaning it will now continue through the process.

Germany’s legislature is composed of two main bodies: the Bundestag, which is comprised of democratically elected lawmakers, and the Bundesrat (or Federal Council), which has members representing individual states. On Friday, the legalization bill was brought up in the latter chamber, where legislators urged the adoption of amendments but did not prevent it from advancing.

The federal government, where the bill originated, will now respond to the Bundesrat’s comments, after which point the legislation will go to the Bundestag for possible enactment, according to The Legal Tribune Online.

The Bundesrat representative of Bavaria’s motion to put the bill on pause was rejected, as was a measure that would have required the formal consent of the chamber before legalization can be enacted. Another proposed amendment to increase the age limit for legal cannabis possession from the current draft that says 18 also failed.

The majority of state government representatives did agree that there is a “structural enforcement deficit” in the legislation, according to a translation. They’re seeking revisions to ensure that the federal government implements regulations in a way that does not cause states to take on administrative costs.

Committees of the Bundesrat made a total of 80 recommendations for revisions to the legalization proposal. That includes amendments to mitigate impaired driving, establish safety standards for cultivation facilities and ban the sale and use of alcohol at cannabis clubs.

Public education provisions should include “realistic financing modalities, especially for mandatory prevention and early intervention measures,” the Federal Council majority said. “Closing loopholes in criminal liability” is another priority.

Now the chamber’s comments will go to the federal cabinet, which drafted the legalization legislation. It will be tasked with preparing a counter-statement, and then the bill will go to the main legislative chamber. If it passes in the Bundestag, the Bundesrat can debate the proposal, but it cannot stop it from taking effect.

The federal cabinet already approved the draft law last month, initiating the process that sent it to the Bundesrat, which only has direct jurisdiction over measures that deal with revenue, state operations or amending the Constitution.

The legalization measure was spearheaded by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach. The proposal, which was unveiled in July, 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 grams 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.

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.

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.

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.

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