A bill to legalize marijuana nationwide in Germany will be formally introduced by the government “immediately after Easter,” a top health official says. He also seems to be pushing back on recent reports that the measure has been significantly scaled back from an initial framework announced last year.
The legislation 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 reportedly worked to revise it in order to avoid a potential conflict with international laws.
German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Wednesday that the plan is still to enact national legalization, and he’s “firmly assuming that we will present the new proposal immediately after Easter” next week.
There were reports last month that the bill is being revised from the framework that the government previously released, with details signaling that officials planned to take a bifurcated approach to the reform.
First, it was said that the measure was changed to let growers would be able to organize and distribute marijuana at so-called cannabis clubs, similar to those in the Netherlands and Spain.
Then there would be a sales component, according to the unverified reports. But it’d be limited to creating a regional pilot program, placing dispensaries that could sell marijuana in certain areas of the country so that the government could assess broader commercial legalization.
Germany would seek sign-off on that aspect of the bill from the European Union (EU) if it has been revised as such. The home grow language would not be subject to the body’s review.
The health minister hasn’t confirmed that reporting, however, and he said on Wednesday that “legalization is planned throughout Germany”—indicating that national commercial legalization may still be possible in the near term.
Lawmakers in the coalition government, meanwhile, have been critical the reported move to scale back the plan.
“We need Germany-wide legalization because the black market can only be pushed back if quality-assured cannabis for recreational use can be traded in certified shops throughout Germany,” Kristine Lütke of the FDP told Zeit Online. “If you can only legally buy quality-assured cannabis in a few cities, the black market will survive.”
“Even if it is difficult to create a legally secure solution [under international rules], we must do everything we can to implement the points agreed in the coalition agreement,” she said.
Canan Bayram of the Green Party said that it’s “questionable whether we will be able to achieve” the goal of stamping out the illicit market under the revised regional plan.
Under the earlier framework that the government had released with the coalition’s backing, adults 18 and older could buy and possess 20-30 grams of marijuana at federally licensed stores and possibly pharmacies.
They could also grow up to three plants for personal use, with rules on enclosing them to prevent youth access.
All ongoing criminal proceedings related to offenses made legal under the reform would be suspended and closed upon implementation.
Marijuana would be subject to the country’s sales tax, and the plan calls for an additional “special consumption tax.” However, it doesn’t specify that number, instead arguing that it should be set at a rate that’s competitive with the illicit market.
Lauterbach said last month that German officials had received “very good feedback” from the EU on the prior reform framework and would be making revisions to the plan before formally introducing a bill in the legislature.
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.
Under that initial framework, adults 18 and older would have been able to possess 20 to 30 grams of marijuana, which they could purchase from federally licensed stores and possibly pharmacies. People could also grow up to three plants for personal use, with rules on enclosing them to prevent youth access.
Marijuana would be subject to the country’s sales tax, and the plan calls for an additional “special consumption tax.” And all ongoing criminal proceedings related to offenses made legal under the reform would be suspended and closed upon implementation.
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.
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A group of German lawmakers, as well as Narcotics Drugs Commissioner Burkhard Blienert, visited California and toured 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.