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German Government’s Marijuana Legalization Plan Leaked, Drawing Criticism From Both Sides Of The Debate

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A draft version of the German government’s marijuana legalization proposal was leaked on Wednesday, and it’s drawn early criticism from reform supporters and opponents alike.

The plan from federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach calls for legalizing sales of up to 20 grams of cannabis for adults 18 and older, with a ban on advertising that promotes consumption.

People could also grow up to two plants for personal use. And there would be a 15 percent THC cap on marijuana products for adults over 21, with THC being restricted to 10 percent for those between 18 and 21.

The draft proposal, first reported by RND, is the product of months of review and negotiations within the administration and so-called “traffic light coalition” government. German officials took a first step toward legalization in June, kicking off a series of hearings meant to help inform legislation to end prohibition in the country.

Despite efforts to strike a balance between consumer freedoms and public health, reform advocates say the plan is excessively restrictive. For example, Kristine Lütke of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) said the THC cap and possession limits will only continue to serve the illicit market.

Kirsten Kappert-Gonther of the Green party argued that the requirement that marijuana must be domestically produced, rather than imported, will mean that the market won’t be able to meet consumer demand.

The administration’s legalization paper says that marijuana would be subject to the country’s sales tax, and it proposes an additional excise tax based on THC concentration. However, it doesn’t specify that number, instead arguing that it should be set at a rate that’s competitive with the illicit market.

This plan is tentative, with the Health Ministry telling Politico EU that the coalition government hadn’t formally reached an agreement at this stage. The administration previously said that it would be releasing a key issues outline on the reform this fall, with the intent of submitting draft legislation by the end of the year.

Conservative lawmakers have also balked at the draft details.

“It seems that the federal government wants to legalize cannabis as soon as possible and completely forgets about the protection of children and young people,” Simone Borchardt of the center-right Christian Democratic Union party told RND.

“Instead of relying on effective education and prevention, Lauterbach gets lost in a tangle of distance rules and upper and lower limits of THC levels for certain age groups,” Borchardt said.

Both liberal and conservative lawmakers have expressed concern that the administration’s draft proposal would not effectively mitigate the illicit market.

“If cannabis with a limited THC content has to be produced in Germany, then the price will be well above the black market price given the difficult climatic conditions in Germany for cultivation, the high energy prices, our comparatively high tax rates and the expected profit margins of pharmacies,” Stephan Pilsinger of the Christian Social Union said.

Of course, it will be up to the Parliament to pass the reform legislation, so it will likely be subject to changes as it moves through that process based on the initial feedback.

A group of German lawmakers, as well as Narcotics Drugs Commissioner Burkhard Blienert, recently visited California and toured cannabis businesses 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 last year that they had reached an agreement to end cannabis prohibition and enact regulations for a legal industry, and they previewed certain details of that plan earlier this year.

A novel international survey that was released in April found majority support for legalization in several key European countries, including Germany.

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