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German Lawmakers Approve Changes To Marijuana Legalization Law Addressing Social Clubs And Impaired Driving

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German lawmakers have approved a series of changes to the country’s marijuana legalization law, imposing restrictions related to impaired driving and giving states more authority to set limits on cannabis cultivation within their borders.

After moving through a pair of committees, the Bundestag adopted the amendments on Thursday. This is the result of an earlier agreement between the federal government and legislators that was made in order to avoid a months-long delay in the implementation of the legalization law.

One of the changes would give states greater flexibility to set restrictions on cultivation at cooperatives that will be able to start dispensing cannabis to members in July. The regional governments would be able to impose limits on the size of the cooperative’s canopies.

Currently, adults can possess and grow marijuana for themselves, but there’s no sales model in place yet.

“The new draft law…takes the concerns of the states into account,” Kristine LĂĽtke of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) said, according to a translation. “We are expanding the evaluation, making the control of cultivation associations more flexible, enabling adjustments to grow hubs and promoting further training for addiction prevention specialists.”

The new change also allows cannabis clubs to employ paid workers to carry out various tasks that are not directly related to the cultivation or distribution of cannabis.

A separate measure that lawmakers adopted sets a per se THC limit for impaired driving. The legislation—which has proved more controversial given a lack of scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of such policies—would make it so drivers would be considered impaired if they have more than 3.5 ng/ml of THC in their blood. The amendment also bans driving if a person has used both marijuana and alcohol, regardless of the amount.

This comes as the government is simultaneously moving forward with the second phase of marijuana legalization to create a pilot program for commercial sales—through an administrative process, rather than having lawmakers pass a separate bill to enact the reform as was initially expected.

“It is now urgent that we move forward, as set out in the coalition agreement,” LĂĽtke said. “The law on the second pillar with model projects for commercial supply chains to combat the black market and strengthen the cannabis economy must finally be presented.”

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, who has led the government’s cannabis legalization efforts, told members of the Bundestag in December that “we are currently examining” the commercial sales plan. But with legalization in effect, there has been increased pressure to expedite that process.

“We need prevention and education instead of prohibition and ignorance!” Green MP Kirsten Kappert-Gonther said. “Unfortunately, the Union is often notable for its ignorance.”

The Federal Council representing individual states previously tried to block the now-enacted legalization proposal last September but ultimately failed.

While Germany’s Federal Cabinet approved the initial framework for a legalization measure in late 2022, the government also said it  wanted to get signoff from the EU to ensure that implementing the reform wouldn’t put them in violation of their international obligations.

Officials took a first step toward legalization in 2022, kicking off a series of hearings meant to help inform legislation to end prohibition in the country.

Government officials from several countries, including the US, also met in Germany last November to discuss international marijuana policy issues as the host nation works to enact legalization.

A group of German lawmakers, as well as Narcotics Drugs Commissioner Burkhard Blienert, separately visited the US and toured California cannabis businesses in 2022 to inform their country’s approach to legalization.

The visit came 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 released in 2022 found majority support for legalization in several key European countries, including Germany.

Meanwhile, the United Nations’ (UN) drug control body recently reiterated that it considers legalizing marijuana for non-medical or scientific purposes a violation of international treaties, though it also said it appreciates that Germany’s government scaled back its cannabis plan ahead of the recent vote.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based managing editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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