A top German official says that the nation’s coalition government will move forward with plans to introduce a marijuana legalization bill, albeit with certain changes, after receiving “very good feedback” from the European Union (EU).
Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Tuesday that a revised legalization proposal would be brought to the legislature “in the next few weeks,” according to a translation.
Germany’s Federal Cabinet approved an 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.
Es geht voran! 🥦 Der Gesundheitsminister will in den kommenden Wochen einen ersten Gesetzentwurf zur #Legalisierung von #Cannabis vorlegen. @Karl_Lauterbach habe "sehr gute Rückmeldungen" aus Brüssel bekommen.✨ pic.twitter.com/OzluAV0fDw
— Kristine Lütke MdB (@kristine_lutke) March 14, 2023
Officials with the European Commission affirmed that the country could take the step, Lauterbach said. However, he added that some changes would be made to the government’s initial plan. He didn’t specify what those revisions would look like, but said it will “take into account European regulations and what should or should not be notified.”
The coalition government will seek to “comply with European legislation while maintaining their own objectives,” the health minister said. The primary objectives will be “reducing crime and to make cannabis use as safe as possible,” EuropaPress reported.
Meanwhile, a separate marijuana legalization bill from progressive German lawmakers is set to receive a public hearing in the Bundestag Health Committee on Wednesday. The sponsors said the legislation is necessary to expedite the end of prohibition.
However, the expectation is that the body will reject the alternative proposal in the interest of waiting to see what the government ultimately puts forward.
While EU has evidently backed the basic idea of legalizing marijuana nationwide in Germany, the United Nations (UN) has made clear that member nations cannot go further than medical cannabis or simple decriminalization under a 1961 treaty to which countries like Germany and the U.S. are a party.
UN’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) recently released an annual report that took the position further by suggesting that the U.S. federal government is violating the treaty by declining to enforce prohibition at the state-level, saying that the federalist system prescribed under the Constitution does not excuse the country from its treaty obligations.
In Germany, the government’s soon-to-be-revised proposal—which is currently in the form of a 12-page framework and not actual legislation—would allow adults 18 and older to 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.
This framework is the product of months of review and negotiations within the administration and the “traffic light” coalition government. German 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 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 in April found majority support for legalization in several key European countries, including Germany.