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Germany’s Government Tweaks Marijuana Legalization Proposal Following Pushback Over Restrictions

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New details about the German government’s marijuana legalization proposal have emerged, with officials incorporating feedback after advocates and lawmakers pushed for fewer restrictions that were included in an initial version that was leaked last week.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach will be presenting the framework to the full Cabinet on Wednesday, The Rheinischer Post reported.

When details of the original version leaked last week, there was quick pushback over certain restrictions that lawmakers and advocates said would complicate efforts to transition consumers to the legal market. At least one key provision related to THC limits for cannabis products was removed in the new document.

The overall 20-30 gram possession limit range remains intact, but the health minister’s 19-page report says that such possession will be legal “regardless of the specific THC content and origin,” according to a translation. The earlier version had stipulated that possession was punishable if the cannabis wasn’t grown and sold within the country’s regulated supply chain.

The report says that officials are still considering whether to impose a maximum THC cap for products sold to adults 18-20.

“The cornerstones make essential statements on the introduction of the controlled sale of cannabis to adults for recreational purposes agreed in the coalition agreement,” the paper says. “Extensive measures to improve consumer health protection, child and youth protection, and information, counseling, and prevention services are addressed.”

It further describes rules for personal cultivation. Adults can grow up to three flowering plants for personal use, which is an increase from a two-plant cap in the original framework. Plants would have to be cultivated in a secure enclosure that’s not accessible to children.

The report says there will be penalties for people who grow, possess or acquire more than the allowable amount of cannabis. But it also includes a new detail, with the minister proposing to make it so all ongoing criminal proceedings related to offenses made legal under the reform would be suspended and closed upon implementation.

Cannabis would need to be sold at licensed retailers, and possibly pharmacies, under the minister’s framework. Sales couldn’t take place a store where tobacco or alcohol is also sold.

There would also be a ban on cannabis advertising.

“Dosage forms for smoking, inhalation, for nasal and oral intake in the form of capsules, sprays and drops are permitted,” the paper continues. “An extension to so-called edibles (products other than food that are offered for oral consumption) will be examined at the latest as part of the evaluation of the law.”

According to an earlier version of The Rheinischer Post article, the framework calls for a 0.3 percent THC limit for industrial hemp to align Germany’s definition of the crop with the European Union’s definition. That detail was removed in an edited version of the news story.

Lawmakers who support cannabis reform have been outspoken about their concerns that the health minister’s first version was unduly restrictive. Johannes Vogel, chairman of the FDP party, said that possession limits should be scrapped altogether, pointing out that the government doesn’t restrict how many bottles of wine a person can possess.

“As far as can be foreseen so far, the pressure is working, at least at the absurd upper limit of the THC value,” another lawmaker, Ates GĂĽrpinar, said. “This is now probably out.”

Both GĂĽrpinar and Vogel have signaled that they want to see further revisions related to driving rules, with Vogel saying that “traffic regulations must be changed so that you can of course drive a car two weeks after smoking a joint—and this is only not allowed when you are in an acute state of intoxication.”

Without removing driving restrictions to exclusively penalize driving while actively impaired, the chairman said the country shouldn’t legalize marijuana at all.

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 in June, kicking off a series of hearings meant to help inform legislation to end prohibition in the country.

Under the plan, marijuana would be subject to the country’s sales tax, and it proposed an additional “special consumption tax.” However, it didn’t specify that number, instead arguing that it should be set at a rate that’s competitive with the illicit market.

Because it will be up to the Parliament to pass the reform legislation, it will likely be subject to additional changes as it moves through that process.

One lingering question is whether the European Union (EU) will challenge Germany’s authority to legalize marijuana. Canada and Uruguay have flouted United Nation’s policy by enacting legalization, but this will represent a key test within the EU.

For what it’s worth, Malta is an EU member nation that legalized cannabis late last year.

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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