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Top German Officials Unveil Draft Marijuana Legalization Bill



Germany’s Health Ministry has unveiled a draft bill to legalize marijuana, submitting it to state officials and the public for review.

The legislation would allow adults to cultivate a limited number of cannabis plants for personal use and set rules for the creation of social clubs where they could obtain marijuana. Officials are also planning to introduce a complementary second measure that would establish pilot programs for commercial sales in cities throughout the country.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said that the country “can dry up the black market and fight crime by making it possible to sell cannabis to adults within clear limits,” according to a translation. He also stressed that guardrails will be put in place to prevent youth from accessing marijuana.

The newly released proposal would allow adults aged 18 and older to grow a maximum of three plants for personal use. People would not be allowed to extract oils or manufacture concentrates from the cannabis.

Personal possession would be capped at 25 grams, with exceptions for those who work at the marijuana social clubs. Those clubs could not be located within 200 meters of a school, and each given city or district could only have one club for every 6,000 residents.

A social club permit would be valid for up to seven years, with the possibility of receiving an extension after five years. Membership to the clubs would have to last at least two months under the draft bill.

Following an administrative review, the first pillar of the legalization plan is expected to be advanced through the cabinet next month. Officials are separately aiming to release the second pillar concerning a pilot program for commercial marijuana sales in the second half of this year.

“Current developments show that the consumption of cannabis is increasing, especially among young people, despite the existing prohibition regulations,” a summary of the new draft legislation says. “The law aims to contribute to improved health protection, strengthen cannabis-related education and prevention, curb the illegal market for cannabis and strengthen child and youth protection. To protect consumers, the quality of consumer cannabis should be controlled and the transfer of contaminated substances should be prevented.”

“The draft law will make it easier for consumers to use cannabis responsibly,” it says. “Private self-cultivation, community non-commercial self-cultivation and the controlled transfer of consumer cannabis to adults for personal consumption are made possible.”

The summary of the 163-page bill also outlines estimates of the costs of implementing and regulating the program, as well as savings from reduced enforcement and new revenue that’s expected to be created through wage taxes from people working at cannabis clubs.

As the government works to advance the home cultivation and social club pillar, the plan is to send the separate commercial pilot program legislation to the European Commission for review before moving to enact it.

The measure as previously described by officials would allow cannabis sales at retailers in select jurisdictions as part of the pilot program that would allow the country to assess further reform over five years. Specifically, officials would study the impact of the shops on consumption trends and the illicit market. Localities would need to opt in to allow the stores to operate.

The health minister first shared details about the revised legalization plan in April. The next month, he distributed the legislative text to cabinet officials.

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Formal legislation detailing the government’s previously announced framework 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 worked to revise it in order to avoid a potential conflict with international laws.

Lawmakers who have pushed the government for far-reaching cannabis legalization policies reacted mostly positively to the government’s April announcement spelling out certain policy proposals, though some did point out areas they’d like to see improved. So far, the revised measure released this week has generated some criticism from advocates who view it as excessively restrictive on adults.

The health minister said in March that German officials had received “very good feedback” from the EU on the prior reform framework.

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.

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.

A group of German lawmakers, as well as Narcotics Drugs Commissioner Burkhard Blienert, visited the U.S. and toured California 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.

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