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legalization | 01.01.2022

Is Berlin Planning Experimental Cannabis Legalization?

Three political parties in Berlin are working on a state pilot program for recreational cannabis. Will Germany be the next country to legalize cannabis?

German cannabis-lovers may see a major breakthrough in Berlin sometime soon. That is if three left-leaning political parties can have an impact on the situation. Three groups have banded together to introduce a new pilot program that partially legalizes cannabis. If enacted, the program will allow Berliner adults to safely purchase and puff on some herb without prosecution.

Cannabis in Germany

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Apart from the occasional waft of a familiar skunky fragrance from a dark street or apartment window, cannabis in Germany is an underground and hidden from public view.

The herb is illegal in the country, yet possession of small amounts will not garner punishment. Each of the 16 German states has different limits to the amount of cannabis that residents can possess without prosecution.

A select few patients, 647 to be exact, have government permission to purchase medical cannabis in pharmacies. For everyone else, the black market is the only supplier of the herb.

Yet, following the tradition of nearly everywhere else in the world, German’s love their cannabis. A failed drug policy and rising popular support has inspired three left-leaning policial parties to team up and propose partially legalizing the plant for adult use in Berlin.

Legalization in Berlin

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In 2015, the Green Party proposed legislation that would have legalized recreational cannabis. Party members estimated that cannabis reform would bring €1-2 billion to state accounts, a number which is based on the average street prices today – about €10 per gram. Capital that certainly wouldn’t be wasted in the European Union’s strongest economy.

Unfortunately, Germans didn’t bite. A recent poll suggests that around 30% of the population favors recreational cannabis reform. Yet, over 80% believe that medical cannabis should be readily available to chronically ill and dying patients.

Though the country as a whole still seems a bit timid about recreational consumption, Berlin politicians are spearheading German cannabis reform. Three parties, the Social Democrats, the Greens, and the Left Party, are working together to partially legalize cannabis.

The groups are seeking a “scientifically monitored pilot project for the controlled distribution of cannabis to adults.” Similar to the United States, cannabis in Germany is outlawed at the federal level.

The Intoxicants Law criminalizes the sale, distribution, and possession of cannabis. Yet, unlike US law, the German government has provided some wiggle room.

Max Plenert of the German Hemp Association tells DW,

The legal code is decided at the federal level, and this is about a local attempt to try to do things differently. The Intoxicants Law provides for such experiments. You can apply for exceptions, although the Minister of Health also has influence over the final decision. The state of Berlin has far broader possibilities than a city district in terms of setting up a pilot project. We can make a far more powerful appeal for an exception.  

Toward German decriminalization

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Officials and supports hope that this pilot program will pave the way for decriminalization in Berlin and Germany all around. Berlin is already known for looking the other way in terms of small-time dealing and possession.

Of the country’s 16 states, Berlin tolerates the possession of up to 15 grams of cannabis, the highest limit in the country. Law enforcement in other states avert their eyes up to the 6-gram mark. After that, those caught with some herb face criminal prosecution.

Reform would not only create another revenue stream for Germany, but it would free up law enforcement and the capital needed to enforce these policies. As Plenert says,

I think we’ve made enough progress in Germany to recognize that the status quo doesn’t really work. And to say: If individual federal states want to experiment with something different, let’s give it a try.

With Berlin’s new initiatives, perhaps Germany will be paving the way for meaningful cannabis reform in Europe sometime soon.

Until then, citizens of the European Union will have to travel to the Netherlands to get their hands on some quasi-legal, top-notch bud.

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